The Mission and Vision of Preaching Peace
A Brief History of Preaching Peace
Preaching Peace was conceived as a hermeneutic tool to help clergy as they preached the gospel from a peacemaking perspective utilizing the mimetic theory. Preaching Peace went online in November 2002 edited by Michael Hardin and Rev. Jeff Krantz (Episcopal). The website has since expanded to include a team of over 12 distinctive writers. We now serve over 10,000 visitors a month.
In August 2004, Michael and Lorri Hardin developed the first annual Making Peace Conference, a weeklong event focused on a holistic approach to spiritually and practically living in peace (the mimetic theory is prominent). The success of this event, offered since 2005, can be measured by those who return year after year and by the transforming impact it has had in the lives of those who participate.
In 2006, The School of Peace Theology was created to provide classes for laity and clergy on various Biblical and theological topics as they related to peacemaking and the mimetic theory. Michael Hardin, principal instructor and Lorri Hardin, occasional instructor, are frequent contributors to various church groups and Sunday School classes. One of the strengths of the SPT teaching method is to make complicated theological topics accessible to the common person. Our students are of all ages from high school to senior citizens and they come from many diverse Christian traditions.
In January 2007, Preaching Peace convened a group consisting of peace scholars, peace pastors and peace activists; the only group of it’s kind in the United States. Theology and Peace was a huge success and has formed its own Executive Board and website.
Also in January 2007, Preaching Peace organized The Nonviolent Atonement Conference, a two-day event, where participants learned a new way of perceiving the death of Jesus from a nonviolent perspective in the light of the mimetic theory. The speakers were well known published scholars in the field. From this Conference, a line of resources has emerged which includes Speaker DVD’s, a textbook, Stricken by God?, and the one-day Nonviolent Atonement Seminars.
In July 2007, Preaching Peace formed a Board of Directors and was organized as a 501(c)3. This allowed us to begin a whole new level of ministry with the support of faithful, generous individuals and annual foundation grants. Please see link above for our most recent Annual Report.
The Need for Preaching Peace
The mimetic theory proposed by Rene Girard has been tested within multiple disciplines: anthropology, literary criticism, theology, religion, psychology, epistemology, sociology, philosophy, political science, economics, linguistics, etc. and now is being tested within the hard sciences, mathematics and medicine. It explains the origins of violence and negative mimesis and the central role that violence plays in structuring our perceptions of reality as well as the structures humans create to govern their world. Further it shows in its interpretation of the Jesus event the power of nonviolence and positive mimesis to transform the human condition.
Over the past several decades, a growing number of biblical scholars and theologians have seen the value of understanding religion in the light of mimetic theory. There is a convergence occurring between the Christian theologians who use the mimetic theory and scholars that write from a peace-building perspective. The time is ripe for a new and creative way of speaking about the God of Peace, of God as Peace, and the mimetic theory is becoming a major catalyst for this emerging conversation. Preaching Peace has begun to organize these scholars and create opportunities for them to be sharing this new paradigm all over North America. Preaching Peace is unique among organizations in popularizing the mimetic theory and is able to reach a broad and diverse audience.
First, there is a need for an organized holistic theological curriculum that builds on the common strengths of the mimetic theory and the Christian peace traditions. Preaching Peace has created the foundational components of that curriculum, continues to develop it and will reach audiences through a variety of media.
Second, there is a need for small church study groups that work a common curriculum together. Preaching Peace is developing a curriculum permeated with the mimetic theory, a leadership-training program, and creates multiple opportunities for emerging leaders to develop relationships with scholars. Like leaven in a ball of dough, the message of the gospel of peace will be spread throughout American Christianity. Historian Brinton Rutherford states: “In order to do good theology, it is necessary to test your theology in community, not academia.”
Third, there is a growing discontent with the spirituality of American Christianity. The need to address the whole person, body, mind, heart and spirit in positive relation to the whole creation is met through the programs offered by Preaching Peace. Prime target audiences include the fast growing “Emergent Church” and “Missional Church” movements in American Christianity, as well as mainline denominational churches and the Historic Peace Churches.
Fourth, there is an urgent need to train clergy in practices that are non-hierarchical and beneficent in character. Current pastoral care models often rely on psychological theories and techniques that are ‘violent’ in nature and practice. The mimetic theory interfaces with a number of growing approaches to therapy and new theological models. The development of these models will bring a crucial dimension to pastoral practice often missed in traditional seminary education.
Fifth, there is a need for the popularization of the mimetic theory. The Cultural Analysis Project will apply the mimetic theory on a popular level so that both churched and non-churched persons will be able to understand the value of exploring culture through this lens. Online courses, a leadership training program, books and curricula will enable and empower regular persons to take charge of their lives as they learn to live peacefully with one another.
Meeting the Need
Preaching Peace: will:
- Bring quality, cutting edge biblical and theological education and curriculum to lay people; function as a major booking agency for theologians, biblical scholars and practicing therapists to bring their expertise out to the local ecumenical community.
- Facilitate the use of the mimetic theory on a practical level, developing an ecumenical paradigm of peace and nurturing a positive mimetic peacemaking understanding within all Christian faith traditions Encourage the peaceful spiritual development of the whole person, intellect, heart, spirit and body;
- Assist clergy in their preaching and teaching by resourcing them through a variety of media;
- Help individuals and groups to integrate personal spirituality with creation care and healing;
- Enable pastors and therapists to practice from within a faith model that is healthy and holistic oriented to peacemaking, restorative justice and healthy relationships;
- Popularize the mimetic theory through publications, conferences, seminars and Internet technologies.
Preaching Peace will serve multiple communities.
Scholars and therapists will benefit through exposure to larger audiences, clergy can fulfill their Continuing Education requirements with quality training, and laity can explore crucial topics within their own faith traditions. Scholars will also benefit by the inter-disciplinary nature of our meetings. Clergy will find preaching and teaching aids while laity will discover the power of the biblical text. Activists will find a model of working within the community that is positive, constructive and relationship sustaining.
Cutting across cultural, racial, economic and ecclesial boundaries, Preaching Peace nurtures a wide-ranging and diverse audience as they take concrete steps within their faith communities to practice living in peace. Underwriting our Conferences and Seminars allows us to share our resources with communities and persons that could not afford such events but desire to attend.
It is imperative that the common person be taught the hermeneutic implications of reading the Scriptures from the perspective of the mimetic theory. Every major movement for reform in the history of Christianity has come about because of a grass roots movement made up of clergy, theologians and laity. It is a primary goal of Preaching Peace to stimulate and act as a catalyst for such a grass roots movement in North America (utilizing both top down and bottom up strategies).