How To Be Peacemakers (Without Being Wimps)

I have a framed copy of the Beatitudes above my computer screen. I put it there when I started writing on a regular basis, to remind me of Jesus’ most important commandments to anyone who would be His follower.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s being called a son of God that’s been sitting with me this week.

How can we be a peacemaker in a time that calls so loudly for resistance? Does peacemaking mean passivity? Does loving our enemies mean singing Kumbaya while they burn the house down around us?

As a Christian, a follower of Jesus and someone who tries daily to live by that example, it is my highest calling and my most important commitment to love everyone around me. I am to love the oppressor as much as I love the oppressed. I am to love the abuser as much as the abused. I am to love the murderer as much as the victim.

I am to love those people. But, that love does not look the same in all cases.

Let me say it again: love does not look the same in all cases.

Loving an oppressed person or people looks like support and solidarity.

Loving an oppressor must look like resistance.

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The featured image is of Confessing Church protestors in 1933 Germany. (Note: the image is difficult to translate. “…church remains. …: Gospel and Church” is all I got from it.) For anyone unfamiliar with the Confessing Church: it was a movement that grew in resistance to continued Nazi interference in Church affairs. It was primarily a movement dedicated to State non-interference, but many of its leaders (including Karl Barth, Martin Niemoller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer) spoke out eloquently against the social injustices of the Nazi regime.

Many leaders of the Confessing Church were arrested, imprisoned, and even executed in concentration camps.

They were subjected to arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution because of their resistance to an unjust society.

Not all Christians followed the example of the Confessing Church in resistance. Many Christians in Nazi Germany were committed to a passive form of peacemaking – a preservation of status quo. No matter that they objected to State interference – they were unwilling to commit to resistance, to protest. No doubt, they wished for the unity of the German Church and the German State.

Now, it’s been very fashionable to compare the rise of Donald Trump with the rise of Hitler, and I had a tendency to roll my eyes quite a bit every time I saw a meme that suggested similarities.

But, after the last week, I’m seeing those similarities. Attacks on scapegoated minorities. Calls for unity. A church that is passive at best and complicit at worst.

Donald Trump might not be Hitler, but 2016 America looks a lot like 1933 Germany.

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This is a moment for the Church. This is a moment for us to be peacemakers, to love both our enemies and the most vulnerable… and to reclaim our militant, non-violent spirit of protest against injustice. The time for nicety and passive peacemaking is over.

We have to be willing to love the vulnerable, the oppressed, the harassed, the insulted, and the assaulted. We have to be willing to love them in a sacrificial way, in a way that makes us into the body and blood of Christ – broken and poured out for the world and her sins.

We have to be willing to love the abusers, the oppressors, the harassers, the crass, the bullies, and the brutalizers. We have to be willing to love them by standing in their way, between them and those that they would hurt, and saying “Only through me.”

We have to resist the easy, comfortable path of unity and status quo – the path that makes us into mewling theological wimps instead of the cubs of the Lion of Judah.

Karl Barth said in 1935: “For the millions that suffer unjustly, the Confessing Church does not yet have a heart.”

Berlin Deaconess Marga Meusel said, of the Confessing Church’s timidity to directly protest the social injustices of the Nazis: “Why does the church do nothing? Why does it allow unspeakable injustice to occur? … What shall we one day answer to the question, where is thy brother Abel? The only answer that will be left to us, as well as to the Confessing Church, is the answer of Cain.”

Think on that: the greatest regret of the leaders of the Confessing Church – the Church that placed itself in direct opposition to the Nazis – is that they didn’t speak firmly enough against injustice.

May we never be so timid, or so passive. Let us take our peacemaking into the streets.

 

When the World Hurts Too Much (Part 2)

I wrote part 1 of this blog back in March (you can read it here.) I never anticipated writing a Part 2, yet here I find myself.

Just as with Part 1, I’m having a really difficult time finding the words for this. I’ve written a paragraph, backspaced the entire thing, then written two more paragraphs – only to then cut those out too. Everything seems either too much or not enough this morning.

I feel a little like lamenting this morning, but I mostly just feel really, really angry. And, I think that this is a perfect mood in which to write this Part 2.

When I was in my very early 20s, I was in a really bad romantic relationship. We were living together, with her infant child, and I was absolutely miserable. But, I didn’t know what to do. I was hurt, and that hurt was turning to anger.

My father told me that “anger is the emotion of self-defense.” Anger is what happens when you’re finally tired of being hurt.

There are a lot of conciliatory sentiments out there on social media this morning. Lots of unity posts. Lots of “Christ is King” and “God is in control” posts. And, I appreciate the sentiments, I appreciate the way that we’re already trying to heal.

But, we don’t need it. We don’t need to heal. We need to keep this wound open. We need to get angry.

In order for there to be unity, there first has to be common ground. And I refuse – I absolutely, vehemently refuse – to have any common ground with the kind of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and outright hatred that drove the Trump campaign. I don’t care that not all of his supporters held those qualities. I care that it was those qualities, on very public display, that led directly to his victory. And, if some of his supporters didn’t share those horrendous values, then they at least declared their implicit tolerance of those values.

I refuse to have any common ground with Christians who claim that their vote for Trump was a moral one, who claim that somehow a man who embodies every single thing that Jesus ever taught against could be God’s great champion in America. Because, their Jesus doesn’t exist anywhere except their minds and their dangerous misreading of the overall message of justice in the Bible.

I refuse to have common ground with people who think that shock therapy is an appropriate response to being LGBT.

Or, that being black in certain neighborhoods is reason enough to get stopped by police.

Or that anyone shot by police is guilty until proven innocent – ESPECIALLY if it’s a person of color.

I refuse to find common ground with people who think that those who are struggling to eat, those who cannot afford to even sleep in a bed, those who are disabled… that those people are inherently lazy or criminal and don’t deserve assistance from our society.

There are times when compromise and common ground is important. In fact, most times require those qualities, and zealots are rightly given a wide berth.

But, today – November 9th, 2016 – is not a day when I’m willing to concede a middle ground between basic human rights and oppression.

I’m not willing to concede that the Jesus that I follow, whose teachings I try so desperately to let transform me, has anything in common with the Jesus of the so-called “Religious Right.”

I’m not willing to concede that there is any value – at all – to these dangerous and self-destructive viewpoints. I’m not going to wring my hands about the plight of the ignored white supremacist or the overlooked homophobe.

I’m not even going to tell you that “Christ is King” or that “God is in control” – not because I don’t believe those things, but because those things are such useless things to say right now. The terrified people of color who are my friends and family – who now have a President-elect who thinks it’s okay that they be beaten and forcibly ejected from a political rally, a President who talks about “law and order” when black men and women are being killed in police custody with impunity – those people might not feel like God is in control. (If they feel that He is, they might question His plan right about now.)

I’m not going to pontificate about God being in control when my friends who are women – who know someone who has been or have been themselves sexually abused or assaulted – now have a President-elect who brags about doing those things, and then brags about getting away with it.

I’m not going to tell my LGBT friends that “God is in control” when their President-elect chose a VP that supports dangerous conversion therapy, who believes that everything about them is an abomination.

What I am going to tell them is that anger is the emotion of self-defense, and that it’s high time that we stopped being nice about this.

We can tolerate disagreement, but we can’t tolerate disenfranchisement.

We can tolerate differences of opinion, but not differences of treatment by the police and in the court system.

We can celebrate religious freedom, but not the lordship of one sect of Christianity over the entire nation.

We can celebrate the freedom of expression, but we cannot tolerate violence and abuse against the vulnerable.

I don’t know how we do this. It still hurts too much. But, I have two more things to say.

Americans of all faiths, creeds, ethnic backgrounds, economic backgrounds, sexuality, gender orientation… all Americans who make America a land of such promise: we are not as good as we thought we were.

We’re not better than this. This is exactly who we are.

Time to change it.

To Christians who still meditate on the Beatitudes daily, who believe that Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost, to heal a broken world, to lift up the humble and cast down the proud….

Our Temple is filthy. Let’s clean it out.