Armed and Dangerous

By Jim Tune

A few years ago, a Seeds of Compassion event in Seattle, Washington, was organized around the visit of the Dalai Lama. One of the highlights was a joint speech by the Dalai Lama and South African bishop Desmond Tutu.

Both men have committed their lives to peace and nonviolence. Their humanitarian work has saved lives and made the world a safer place. Both men espouse the value of enemy love. Both are committed to the call to love their enemies just as they would love their friends. They have lived out this commitment in ways most of us can’t imagine. These are legendary men of peace, love, and nonviolence.

The entourage accompanying those two men received little attention from TV cameras. The Dalai Lama was surrounded by 20 or so physically imposing monks dressed in bright orange kasaya robes. They walked with purpose and appeared to be carrying weapons beneath their robes.

Aug12_image_JNAs the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama receives the same security protocols a head of state on a diplomatic mission to the United States would receive. So in addition to his large, fit, young monk friends, there was a pack of Secret Service agents around him. In distinctive dark suits fitted over Kevlar vests, they stood ready with one hand firmly in control of their Sig Sauer P229 handguns under their jackets. These agents were not only a protective force, they were a well-trained lethal force.

I wondered how many noticed the irony that two men who have done so much to advocate on behalf of peace would still rely on the power of death to protect peace. The world is a complicated place.

I’m not suggesting the United States ignore its normal security procedures when the Dalai Lama visits America. I don’t condemn the decision of either man to travel with entourages that bristle with muscle and firepower. I guess I’m honestly dismayed by the complexity of it all. It bothers me that violence is readily accepted as the only realistic solution to just about any perceived personal or international threat.

Really, my critique is not directed to either man; it’s more for me. I lament my own impulses to live a life of self-protection. I want to stop being guided by fear and believing the lie that force and violence hold the most promise for securing peace.

If the “good” guys kill enough “bad” guys, will we somehow save the world? Can we save the world by killing the world? It just feels so incongruous, even contradictory, to the teachings of our leader who called his followers to lay down their arms, wage peace, and love their enemies.

So call me a dreamer. Call me naive. I still hope to live in a world where the love and life of God are what make the world safe. Yes, it’s complicated. But as Christians, shouldn’t we be the ones leading and sacrificing and risking all for the sake of peace on earth, goodwill to all men? You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. . . .

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