Peace For Me Must Also Mean Peace For My Neighbor

By Kiran Thadhani 01-26-2011

"To win the future" was a catch phrase for President Obama during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. In his address the president noted that, "sustaining the American dream has never been about standing pat," rather, "this is our generation's Sputnik moment." These appeals towards American exceptionalism are an age-old tactic used to rally the nation and remind its citizens that the character of America derives from hard-working, freedom fighters created for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Although this address may have intended to create unity and excitement across the nation, parts of it caused my soul to cringe and wonder why on Earth anyone would consider this nation a "light to the world?" Why should a nation of elitism and entitlement be the example for us to follow?

As a Christian, the State of the Union address -- or what I would like to call, "The Rally to Restore Team America" -- is rather hard to receive, as I am continuously reminded that God does not live on Capitol Hill. The God I choose to follow has quite a different approach towards rallying God's people and community. The way of Jesus is counter to seeking "number one" only for the American people. As the Israelites are reminded in the scriptures of Jeremiah, there is not peace for Israel until there is peace for Babylon. Therefore, the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness for the United States must remain contingent on the pursuit of the life, liberty, and happiness of all nations. As Christians, we do not just belong to an American family, but to the human family.

Yes, the State of the Union addresses the Union specifically, but because of the power the United States has, the ambitions of the nation must be fully connected to "winning the future" for more than just the United States or the American dream.

Thus, a freeze on domestic spending should accompany a freeze on entitlement. Respect for Muslim Americans should accompany respect for Muslims in the Middle East. Citizenship to immigrant students in the United States must accompany an understanding that their parents are not "stealing" our jobs, because they were never just our jobs to begin with.

Last night, President Obama spoke brilliantly in regards to his desires, hopes, and dreams for the future of our nation:

  • to create a robust bi-partisan government that is a space for tension and debate, while seeking solutions
  • to continue to push towards new innovation and industry, specifically towards clean energy sources
  • to seek solutions for the systematic roots of the education problems in the nation.

Yes, President Obama, I agree and support you in these and many other issues that you brought to the table last night. I believe much of what you said aligns with the pursuit of justice Jesus often spoke of in reference to loving people and offering them life abundant. But my peace and my "victory" is not in prosperity for America alone.

My peace comes from a Palestinian-Jew named Jesus whose character and life constantly teach me that peace for me is peace for my neighbor ...

... my neighbor on Fairmont Street.

... my neighbor in Lynn, Massachusetts.

... my neighbor in Bethlehem, Palestine.

... my neighbor in any part of the world.

For the kingdom of my Messiah is not red, white, and blue, but is where every nation, tribe, and tongue can commune and seek peace.

Kiran Thadani is circulation and resources assistant at Sojourners.

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