“Down the rivers, o’er the prairies, came the warriors of the nations,
All the warriors drawn together
By the signal of the Peace-Pipe, to the Mountains of the Prairie,
And they stood there in the meadow,
With their weapons and their war-gear, painted like the leaves of Autumn,
Painted like the sky of morning, wildly glaring at each other;
In their faces stern defiance, in their hearts the feuds of ages,
The hereditary hatred, the ancestral
thirst of vengeance.
“Gitche Manito, the mighty, the Creator of the nations,
Looked upon them with compassion, with paternal love and pity!
Looked upon their wrath and wrangling,
But as quarrels among children, but as feuds and fights of children!
To subdue their stubborn natures, to allay their thirst and fever,
By the shadow of his right hand;
Spake to them with voice majestic,
As the sound of far-off waters, falling into deep abysses,
Warning chiding, spake in this wise:
“O my children! My poor children! Listen to the words of wisdom,
Listen to the words of warning, from the lips of the Great Spirit,
From the Master of Life, who made you:
“I have given you lands to hunt in, I have given you streams to fish in.
I have given you bear and bison, I have given you roe and reindeer,
I have given you brant and beaver, filled the marshes full of wildfowl,
Filled the rivers full of fishes; Why then are you not contented?
Why then do you hunt each other:
“I am weary of your quarrels, weary of your wars and bloodshed,
Weary of your prayers for vengeance, of your wranglings and dissensions.
All your strength is in your union, all your danger is in discord;
Therefore be at peace henceforward, and as brothers live together.
“I will send a Prophet to you, a Deliverer of the nations,
Who shall guide you and shall teach you, who shall toil and suffer with you,
If you listen to his counsels, you will multiply and prosper;
If his warnings pass unheeded, you will fade away and perish!
“Wash the war-paint from your faces, wash the blood-stains from your fingers,
Bury your war-clubs and your weapons,
Break the red stone from the quarry, mould and make it into Peace-Pipes,
Take the reeds that grow beside you, deck them with your brightest feathers,
Smoke the calumet together, and as brothers live henceforward!”
Then upon the ground the warriors, threw their cloaks and shirts of deer skin,
Threw their weapons and their war-gear, leaped into the rushing river,
Washed the war-paint from their faces,
Clear above them flowed the water, clear and limpid from the foot-prints
Of the Master of Life descending;
Dark below them flowed the water, soiled and stained withstreaks of crimson,
As if blood were mingled with it!
From the river came the warriors, clean and washed from all all their war-paint;
On the banks their clubs they buried, buried all their warlike weapons.
Gitche Manito, the mighty, the Great Spirit, the Creator,
Smiled upon his helpless children!
And in silence all the warriors, broke the red stone of the quarry,
Smoothed and formed it into Peace-Pipes, broke the long reeds of the river,
Decked them with their brightest feathers, and departed each one homeward.
- from “Hiawatha,” by Henry W. Longfellow
Hidden in the legends of ancient peoples, clouded, perhaps, by centuries of retelling the tale and passing it down by word of mouth, distorted somewhat from the original by the imaginations of unregenerate hearts, can be found at times prophetic truths. These threads of truth, perhaps filtered down from primeval times when God gave promises and prophecies to a fallen race to give them hope for the future and can, at times, be seen glistening through primitive folklore. Longfellow’s Hiawatha, an Indian story held as one of the sacred legends of the American Indian quoted above, is just such a story.
Lingering in this tale is the hope that war will end and be replaced by peace and universal brotherhood when men will spend their time in useful endeavors. And that hope has been present as Longfellow explains it “in all ages, in the human heart.” Ancient peoples looked forward to a day when universal peace and economic well-being would be a reality.
The Hebrew Prophets Isaiah and Micah foretold it prophesying, “They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation and never again will they train for war.“1 As this longing for peace on earth and the end of war existed in the heart of ancient and primitive peoples, that yearning still remains today in the heart of modern man.
The Dawning of Hope
The hope of realizing that longing for peace began to rise once again during the last years of the 80’s when the cold war was called off and Mikhail Gorbachev denounced war as a way of settling things. At the Summit two years ago after a speech to the United Nations, Rosenblatt of U.S. News and World Report summed it up: “The United States may be stumbling about a bit, having learned that the Soviet Union appears to wish to remove itself from the top of our Enemies List … Gorbachev has in effect said, ‘Sorry. It’s all been a terrible mistake. On to new times and new ideas!’“2
Another reporter commented that though the speech to the U.N. was couched in idealistic terms Gorbachev’s deeper message was “Our system has failed; yours has won. We are reforming. Accept us as a respected partner. Without quite saying so, Gorbachev junked 70 years of ‘scientific’ Soviet dogma.“3
President Reagan’s admonition to such an about face was a sensible one, “We must trust, but verify.” President Reagan remarked that after he referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” he never dreamed he would one day stand on the steps of Moscow State University, in front of the mural of the Bolshevik Revolution, and talk to Russian university students about what it means to be a free nation. It was then, he said, that he sensed on the horizon a great possibility that the nations would indeed one day live together in peace without the threat of war.
Perhaps it was no coincidence then that it was the widespread belief of early Americans that their new experiment in free government would replace the old order of tyranny and bring the world into a new order of things – which would ultimately bring the nations of the world into universal freedom, peace, prosperity, and brotherhood.
A New Breeze is Blowing
President Bush observed in his Inaugural Address, “We live in a world refreshed by freedom. A new breeze is blowing and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn. If not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing and its old ideas are blown away like leaves from an ancient lifeless tree.” More than likely President Bush didn’t realize how prophetic those words were or just how quickly that breeze was going to blow those leaves away.
In a recent interview prior to the June summit, Time reporters asked Gorbachev, “In the wake of the elections in Eastern Europe, why do you believe so many citizens who have experienced communism for four decades now seem to be rejecting that philosophy and political system?”
Gorbachev replied, “Well, they don’t just ‘seem’ to be rejecting that system – they are rejecting it. But what they are rejecting is the lack of freedom; they’re rejecting a system that has done violence to their national character and national rights; they are rejecting ossified ways of thinking.”
Asked what he felt the most important themes to have emerged in the past several years, Gorbachev responded, “Enmity kept the world permanently disturbed and waiting for disaster, for global explosions. People have begun to realize that the earth is getting too small for wars and that they have to put an end to the spiraling arms race. The burden of today’s military spending has proved too heavy even for rich nations such as the U.S. To sum up, toward the end of the 1980’s there appeared a glimmer that the global process could be demilitarized …
“Changes inside the U.S.S.R. have had a profound impact on world developments; there is a new international situation with greater prospects for a period of peace in the development of civilization and vast opportunities for a better life for people everywhere … Whether these developments are to bring about true progress and real innovation will depend on how firmly we establish in world politics the principles of freedom of choice and the reunification of force, which does not mean just military force.
“As far as we in the Soviet Union are concerned, this matter has been settled once for all. New Thinking does not come easily. It turns out that one must learn it the hard way, as I see both in my own country and in the U.S. Summarizing the essence of the historic turn that occurred in the 1980’s, I would say this: within a very short span of time, people have begun to regain hope for a better future.”
Welcoming the Rule of Law
Concerning Soviet response to civil uprisings Time reporters asked how civil war would be averted? Gorbachev answered, “Some people are nostalgic for the past. I think we should move along the path we have chosen, which is the path of developing and expanding the processes of democratization and glasnost. We are committed to that . We’ll be guided on that path by the rule of law. That means there should be one law for everyone; everyone should be equal before the law.
“Repression, witch hunts, the search for enemies – all that is unacceptable. It’s not what we want, and it’s not what our people want. What I have to do is use my personal authority and my political powers as President to speed up our progress toward becoming a state fully governed by the rule of law.We should take advantage of the chance we have to bring about real change and to build a democratic country based on the rule of law, a real civil society.”
Asked to give his vision for the next century and the Soviet Union, Gorbachev responded:
“What the 21st century will be like depends on whether we learn the lessons of the 20th century and avoid repeating its worst mistakes. In my view one of the principal lessons is that the end, no matter how noble and attractive it may seem, never justifies indiscriminate means. As we approach the end of the 20th century we must recognize that we are one civilization. To accept the idea of mutual security means abandoning the idea of ‘world leadership,’ which implies supremacy over others.“4
This turn around of the U.S.S.R from ruler’s law to the rule of law is a major stepping stone to peace and freedom. Up until the founding of America, with the exception of ancient Israel and the early Anglo-Saxon people, 99 percent of the human race had to live their lives under the tyranny of Ruler’s Law.
The history of Ruler’s Law is one of blood, terror, and oppression, as men and women are valued only in their importance as contributors to the state to be disposed of at the whim and fancy of those who are in power. All power under Ruler’s Law was and still is exercised by compulsion, force and conquest. This was easily observable in China’s massacre of its young people in Tiananmen Square last year. The practice of Ruler’s Law makes up the majority of Russia’s history.
Shifting from the Marxist Model
Naisbitt and Aburdene observed in Megatrends 2000, that among nations the desire for economic cooperation is stronger than the urge for military adventure with its huge human and financial costs. The Communist World is coming to the realization that small enterprise, not central planning, is the road to real prosperity. They are shifting from a Marxist model of economic development to an entrepreneurial model. As the economic forces surge across national boundaries the results are more democracy, more freedom, more trade, more opportunity, and greater prosperity.5
Prosperity and democracy will finally end deadly regional conflicts. Naisbitt observes. “Wealth is the great peacemaker. The forty-four richest nations have been at peace for more than forty-five years. When developing countries make peace with their neighbors, a greater proportion of their resources can be invested in economic development.“6
Wealth has not lead to increased greed as some would think. “The world’s economic boom has become instead the foundation for a higher way of life. As basic needs, such as shelter and safety, are met, higher needs, such as those for belonging, achievement, and self-actualization rise in their place. The satisfaction of basic needs has stimulated the search for meaning exemplified by the renaissance in the arts and the revival of spirituality.“7
The Influence of Christianity
This hope of peace and blessing is reaffirmed in a favorite hymn of the Church, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, reaffirms this hope of peace and blessing:
“For, lo, the days are hastening on, by prophets, bards foretold
When with the ever encircling years comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.”
It was at the birth of Jesus that multitudes of heavenly hosts appeared to shepherds on a lonely Judean hillside proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
When Isaiah foretold of the Christ’s birth he said, “Of the increase of His government and of His peace there will be no end.”
Another famous carol by Issac Watts, Joy to the World proclaims, “No more let sin or sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground, He comes to make His blessing flow, far as the curse is found.”
True to Biblical prophecy, it was the advent of Christ and the spread of Christianity that has greatly influenced the spread of peace in the world.
Historian Charles Bancroft writes about Christianity’s influence in world history:
“In few, but plain and convincing words, the primitive teachings of Christianity laid down the principles of human rights and Divine law. It was humble, unostentatious, very simple in all its forms. The few unprejudiced among the great, and thousands of the poor and oppressed whom the cruel power of the Romans had deprived of nationality, property and personal liberty and many whose minds recoiled from the vices, crimes and skepticism of the age, heard and embraced it with joy.
“It rebuked with most severity the ambitions, the injustice and the love of luxury that were most prevalent in that age and that were most distinctly Roman. It defined the nature and stated the sanctions of virtue in the clearest terms; tore away every covering from vice and denounced without fear the favorite ambitions and follies of men. It is then no matter of surprise that Christianity did not at once meet with general acceptance.
“It was the doctrine of peace proclaimed among nations who knew no occupation so glorious as war; whose institutions all rested on conquest; whose dominant race admired and feared was the very genius and embodiment of martial force arrayed against the independence of all nationalities by an organization the most complete. It proclaimed the rights of man and the equality of all classes and persons before the Divine Law.
“The most sensual of all races it exhorted to spirituality, to the most cruel and insolent it preached meekness and forbearance. It placed the slave to whom the recognized laws of war left no rights, beside the master who gloried in setting his foot on the neck of the prostrate. It recognized as equals the great and the small, the ignorant and the wise, the bond and the free.
“Slowly Christianity penetrated society and moulded institutions. Persecution called public attention to it and won it sympathy, and it continually spread beneath the surface of society. The brutal features of Roman character were gradually softened; very gradually for Roman manners and morals were an Augean stable which it was a more than herculean task to cleanse; but after a time, the gigantic crimes of a Nero or Domitian became impossible, and the horrors of the theater where gladiators killed each other and men were thrown to wild beasts for amusement of the populace, became rare.
“Atrocious crimes awakened a disgust that showed a different view and a new standard of judgement in the community. Christianity created a purer moral atmosphere even in Rome, and while it was persecuted with the utmost barbarity. But it spread so extensively that a clear sighted emperor at length found it politic to profess Christianity in order to gain the support he needed.“8
The Conquering Power of Liberty
19th century historian Charles Coffin states, “As we trace the great ideas that have shaped history we will see how Tyranny and Wrong have fought against Liberty and Justice … and how Tyranny and Wrong have gone down before it. Through all the narratives of wars, massacres, and bloodshed, you will see Right, Justice, and Liberty ever advancing. To what end? Is it not the march of the human race toward an Eden of rest and peace?“9
Perhaps, then, it was no coincidence that on the eve before the overthrow of the treacherous Romanian dictator Ceausescu 200,000 people knelt in the streets of Budapest with lighted candles and prayed in unison the Lord’s Prayer, which entreats God saying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and asks for forgiveness of sins.
And in case there is any doubt as to what that will of the Father was Jesus clearly stated His purpose as he began his ministry that Sabbath in a synagogue in Nazareth now almost 2000 years ago saying:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison. To proclaim the year of Jehovah’s favor, to comfort all that mourn, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness … And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.”
Jesus told his disciples as he walked among them, “Satan has come to steal, to kill, to destroy, but I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He died not only for each individual , but He died so that the whole world could be saved. Jesus said, “God did not send His son in the world to pass sentence on it, but to save it.“10
Perhaps it is no coincidence then, that Dr. Robert Shuller, a leading evangelical minister, was invited to broadcast monthly spiritual talks to the Russian people, and to many Eastern Bloc nations over Soviet Television beginning in September for an entire year free of charge.
On the eve of the summit Dr. Shuller delivered a message of hope and of faith in a living God to the Russian people. President Gorbachev told Shuller personally how much the talk meant to him and what a profound and calming effect it had on him and the Russian people. The head of Soviet Television explained, “Our people need to hear about more than their problems, they need to have something for their souls. Dr. Shuller talks to their souls.”
One thing is certain – Jesus will see the travail of his soul and be satisfied. Even as the Psalmist prophesied, “Yes, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him.” (Ps.72:11)
1 Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:2
2 Roger Rosenblatt, “He Saw the Past and it Did Not Work,” U.S. News and World Report, Dec.19, 1988, p.9
3 “Responding to Gorbachev,” U.S. News and World Report, Dec. 19, 1988, p.17)
4 Gorbachev Interview, “I am an Optimist,” Time, Summer 4, 1990, pp.27-34.
5 John Naisbitt & Patricia Aburdene, Megatrends 2000, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1990, pp.131-133. 6 Ibid., p.20 7 Ibid., p.311
8 Charles Bancroft, The Footprints of Time, R.T. Root, Burlington, Iowa, 1880, pp.110-112.
9 Charles Coffin, The Story of Liberty, Introduction, Maranatha Publications.
10 Portions of John 3:16-17, Moffatt’s Translation
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved