July 11, 2016
I am not an American. I am, however, married to an American. This means that I celebrate two Thanksgivings and have watched my fair share of college football games. It also means that conversations at family gathering in the good ol’ US of A will invariably lean towards politics or religion or more likely than not some mix of both.
Like many on both sides of the border, I’ve been stunned by the rash of mass and racial shootings. I’ve also been stunned that there has been no meaningful changes to gun legislation and that the cries for change are coming from a few vocal groups but not the country as a whole. Is it just not bad enough yet? I’m left wondering, “how crazy does it need to get?” I’m not interested in a 2nd amendment right conversation. That’s a lost leader in my opinion. The amendment is as out of date as this video makes it seem.
In the last two days, two African American men have been shot dead by white police officers. A black man, in retaliation, shot 12 police officers, killing 5. I don’t know what statistics say about police shootings generally in the US or the number of black men compared to white men shot by police, but the fact that this even something we’re discussing seems outrageous to me. Something isn’t right. There are just too many stories of the “good guys” doing the wrong thing.
Why all this fear? Why all this hurt and hate? It’s been a couple of months now since I traveled to Lebanon. I think about the trip quite regularly, in part because I’ve had the opportunity to share my experience with MCC volunteers and a number of church communities. One of the pictures that I share is a picture of two young girls at an after school program run by one of MCC’s partner organizations. During our visit with this particular partner, one of the program leaders pulled me aside and suggested I take this picture. “Sure, but why”, I asked. His response was straightforward. “One of the girls is Palestinian and one is Syrian. They have learned that they can be friends. So now they are friends.”
I’m not naive enough to believe the answer to all of these conflicts is simply “let’s be friends”. At the same time, the answer doesn’t need to be overly complicated. The answer certainly isn’t hate, hurt and fear.
Witnessing the violence of the last few days, I can’t help but think of Jesus’s call to action in Matthew 5:44-45:
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”
I know we live in a complex world and I don’t profess to have all the answers to the world’s problems, but I am convinced of two things: 1) love drives out fear; 2) shooting another human being is in no way an act of love.
Check out MCC Canada’s Peace Sunday Packet: Crossing to the other side: Living as people of peace in a time of fear and terror for Biblical reflections, worship resources, stories and other resources on this topic.
PS – If you’d like to put the verse above into context, you’ll find chapter 5 starts with the Beatitudes which has even more to say about God’s upside down kingdom.
PPS – here’s a recently published story from our national office on a project for peace I witnessed first-hand during my trip to Lebanon. LOST does great work.