A little disclaimer here. What began as a remembrance of Rachel Corrie, the young woman who was killed by a bulldozer as she was defending a Palestinian home from demolition became a musing about “the progressive/liberal church.” Yesterday was the 8th Anniversary of Rachel’s death. Her parents are the kindest, most unoffensive people I know. I got distracted and a wee bit “ranty” if that is a word. These sort of musings are not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. So for those of you who do not wish to “partake,” let me say, “I get it” . Because this is my primary spiritual community, I feel compelled to speak to it from time to time. I think Rachel will forgive me.
I have come to believe that the future of our world is reliant on the power of nonviolence. I have believed this – and worked for it in small ways for many years now. I believe it is a matter of time until our collective consciences as interdependent societies see that the solutions we seek will never be successfully resolved any other way. The recent changes in Egypt and Tunisia are fabulous examples of human progress in this regard. I believe that every step toward peace and reconciliation is a step toward each other, a step toward the common good, a step closer to the best in us. And, I would add: a step toward what God has in mind for our relationships and our world.
I had an interesting experience a few months ago leading a group of nonviolence advocates. These are inspirational and determined men and women who happen to be Presbyterians. Most of them have worked – really worked – for peace and justice issues their entire lives. Some are pastors singing a different song than most of their peers, some are justice advocates, some are educators, some are all of the above. Mean age: roughly 73. I adore these people. We have a quarterly breakfast at 8am on a Saturday and every time I force myself to get up and hang out with them, I think, “I was born too late. These are my kin.”
When I asked them, “who do you think of when you think of nonviolence?” who do you think came to mind?
Ghandi. Martin Luther King Jr. They were the biggies.
Great! “And who did MLK and Ghandi model after?” I asked. Quietly and hesitantly the answer came, “Jesus.”
It is fascinating to me that we quiet-so-as-not-to-be-taken-as-religious-right Christians consider ourselves peacemakers, which we attempt to do, but we often do not know or at the least do not litanize the roots of the convictions we hold. We know that the use of violence is unhelpful and ultimately counterproductive; we believe that Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, not bomb them; we have a deep spiritual and emotional yearning for places of faith to be havens of grace and welcome. Still we defer to “secondary sources” who use Jesus as their model. Meanwhile we quote Ghandi, Thich nat Hahn, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, MLK., Jr, and others. We feed the hungry, work for human equality, champion the rights of those often silenced, and still we cringe a bit when Jesus is brought up in dinner conversation.
The other thing I have come to wonder is whether or not Christians believe that God’s reign of peace will actually come. We pray for God’s reign of peace to come – not as a sweet ideal – but as a promise to be fulfilled. And, of course, that prayer also means we are engaging ourselves in helping that reality come to pass. Do you believe this? Do I believe this?
At the end of my time with my retired homies, I asked them, “Do you believe that peace will come?” There were a few blank “yes’s”. So I said again, “Do you believe that peace will come?” A few of them looked at each other – and a few more responded affirmatively. So I said again much more dramatically, “DO YOU BELIEVE THAT PEACE WILL COME?” As if the more convincingly I proclaimed it, the more true it would be – and the more agreement we would share. It seems like we want to believe that peace will come, but it is a hard belief to hold to given our experience of the world.
Something has to give here. If Christians peace building is to be relevant – and here I mean those who classify themselves as progressives or liberals, take your pick – we need to start reading, studying, and talking about Jesus again. We have been sitting in our recliners flipping stations to avoid FOX News long enough.
If you would like some suggestions, I have a few – just send me a note and I will forward them to you. It seemed like too much for one post.