Monday, May 21, 2018
Last Friday, we heard once again of another shooting at a school. The narrative so familiar, the words said in response predictable as a record stuck on repeat. We are caught up in a culture of violence. We anger stokes the fire of more anger. We constantly wound ourselves and others. In many ways, we have not named and claimed that part of the violence begins within ourselves. Our running internal commentary and critic shouts at us both about our own short comings while at the same time telling us that, "Those people are the problem." Violence seems to be woven inside us - just think back to the last time you tried on a shirt and the voice said sarcastically, "Don't you look great." Or think about your reaction and response to someone who cuts in-front of you in traffic. Why exactly are we so mad about that? It is because we swim in the sea of violence that starts internally and is expressed and becomes fanned to flames externally by those around us.
To be sure, this is not a new story. It seems as if every culture has struggled with shame and blame. You can page back through our own history. Our country is founded on the fact that England/King was the problem...once we broke free of repressive taxes...everything would be great. We have fought countless wars, yet rarely does the violence solve the problems that plague us or give us lasting peace. Perhaps it is the violence we do with words that is the spark that starts the fire. Rather than listening, we yell louder. Rather than saying that we might be part of the problem, we point the finger more angrily and poignantly and passionately. Social media has become a bullhorn of blasting our frustration to more and more people...the violence we do is rooted deeply around us and within us.
To live non-violently, to embrace and embody the prayer, "Let peace begin with me," means our souls and lives must turn toward another way. We must begin to think about being the prayer. This prayer, for me, is less about words and more presence. Less about distracting ourselves with celebrities or this tweet or that top trending article on Google news. We need to grieve with families whose sons and daughters lost their lives from gun violence. We need to lament and ask God, "How long?" And rather than pounding our fists (as violence begets more violence), we need to embody the Christ-like way of non-violence. Some will say this will never work. Only history tells us through Christ, Dr. King, Gandhi, Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, and on and on it might just be the only path that does yield fruit. Yet, this road will not immediately or instantly produce everything magically. The journey will be one of persistence and patience. Not in the blink of an eye, but slowly, we draw attention and help people rediscover the "better angel" part of our nature.
I was recently convicted by the words of john a. powell who said, "As people of faith, we talk about love but don't seem to live that love." He went on to say, we may talk about love in church, but outside in the world we compete and compare and constantly try to exert power over rather than power with someone. We need to love not only the victims family but the shooter and his family. It is not the easy path. It is one filled with obstacles and pitfalls. Yet, it is the prayer I long to be in a world that needs to take steps in new directions. Toward talking, toward listening, toward continued action, toward holding our attention on issues for more than a media cycle.
God help me be that prayer in these days and in such a time as this. Amen.