On Peace Signs

In my town, there are a fair number of stickered bumpers.  People are eager to share their opinions, even with those who have no closer interaction than driving behind them for half a mile.  I’ve seen a goodly few maize-and-blue equals signs; ovals proclaiming that the driver has run a marathon or half-marathon; acronyms that evidently refer to vacation destinations; and of course the ubiquitous “coexist” and “tolerance” stickers composed of various religious symbols.

I don’t care for these last, mostly because they strike me as being either hypocritical (typically those howling for tolerance are failing to tolerate someone else) or needlessly preachy.  Perhaps they strike a chord with some people and register as irresolvable dissonance with me, though that seems improbable; are we (to stretch a conceit to breaking point) using different modes or scales?

But maybe it’s the peace signs.  Where did they come from?  How did some lines in a circle come to signify peace, instead of an olive branch or dove or other symbol?  Why do they just make me think of hippies?

These are questions that might have occurred to me in grade school; peace-signs accompanied any and all hippie costumes (a tad more plentiful at Halloween and “spirit week” theme days than I would now expect), and comprised some of the curious “girl power”-themed jewelry, stickers, and other paraphernalia.  My dad always seemed mildly disapproving of them, though I didn’t know why.  Had I thought about it, I might have concluded that they offended his religious sensibilities somehow, or perhaps that he’d once gotten in a fistfight with a flower child.

It finally occurred to me to look it up on that web I spend so much time tangled in, whereupon I learned that Mr. Gerald Holtom designed the symbol by combining the semaphore positions for “N” and “D,” which together stand for “Nuclear Disarmament.”  The English Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament made it their badge, a visible token which helped bind the members of that      campaign together.  Its use spread to the anti-war movement more generally, and to American campuses starting in 1960.  By 1970, it had become a generic symbol, internationally and cross-culturally understood.

All of which may explain my dad’s reservations more fully than any altercations with beatniks – not that he or I oppose nuclear disarmament, but because, for all that it’s internationally recognized, it has such a narrow meaning.  Go ahead and promise not to nuke anyone else ever again, and seal it with a rainbow if you can, but I pity you if that’s the extent of your idea of peace.

This is my idea of peace:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  – Romans 5:8-10

Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:32-33

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  – John 14:26-27


One thought on “On Peace Signs

  1. I like what you’ve had to say here. I think many Christians either emphasize the inner peace of Christ while cheering for war on earth, or they are the hippy-dippy 😉 type who promote peace on earth and equality without much consideration for spiritual peace. Of course there will never be 100% peace anywhere in our fallen world in the state it’s in, but I think Jesus might prefer we aim for both kinds of peace for now.

    Also, I never knew the origin of the now-common peace sign, so you have taught me something today. In the days before Wikipedia, a middle-school friend of mine said that the peace sign was an upside-down, broken cross, and was therefore evil (she had very oppressive parents). I didn’t really believe her, and I never looked it up because I didn’t really care. Now I know…thanks!

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