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Jeffrey Parker

Jeffrey Parker  is a Specialist Chaplain’s Assistant in U.S. National Guard

Interview by Naomi Flaherty

May 2012

Peace to me, or at least the foundation of it, would be an understanding of both sides. I know that conflict arises a lot when a soldier doesn’t understand the other soldier, or a soldier doesn’t understand the enemy. They rarely ever understand why they’re fighting each other or who the other person is on an interpersonal level. I don’t think we could ever have peace if we’re always alienating the other. This gets into what I do. If I don’t understand my soldiers there’s going to be a little bit of animosity in our relationship. I’m not going to be able to help my soldiers, to bring them into a situation of being at peace with themselves. That’s what they struggle with most. Peace would mean reconciliation of differences. Definitely not giving way on differences or making any choices that take away from what makes you unique. But just understanding each other and being accepting of each other. So much of the conflict that I see is over misunderstandings and a lack of desire to understand.

In my work, I am constantly trying to understand and take a posture of learning and listening. If I’m on the firing lines with the guys I need to have a careful and open ear. If a comment is said, maybe even a racist comment or a comment that slights another soldier, I need to do my best to understand why that comment was said on a personal level. Not on a psychological or sociological level, but understanding him as an individual and then understanding the other person as an individual to whom that was stated. Even though it’s a focus on yourself, you don’t take time to introspectively look at yourself. My job is creating that understanding of self and helping them look into themselves.

Seeking peace in community is encouraging engaging conversations on who we are as individuals and not throwing facades up. God created all of us pretty darn amazingly. We essentially don’t believe, which is a misunderstanding again, that God created us amazingly. And when we don’t understand that about ourselves, there’s no way we can understand that about others.

            Peace in the world requires being interested in other people. Putting others first, or maybe not even first because that could be a huge step for someone. Just putting them up there somewhere on your list is going to take a huge step towards peace through reconciliation. Achieving peace in the world is possible.  It will be like turning a cruise ship around. It’s going to take forever, but I think starting at the individual level is huge. If we each understand that we are created in the image of God we wouldn’t want to take actions that are defacing towards each other.

If I were not a theology major I would be very interested in the Peace Studies program. I think theological understandings of who we are, who we were created to be, should be foundational to the program. There could even be a class on understanding how other cultures believe who we are as humans. A religious understanding of human life, both looking at Christianity and other world religions, would be tremendous.