Thursday, January 3, 2013

Scripting Peace in 2013

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still...This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs.'
Exodus 14:14, 16:16

...history belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being...The future belongs to whoever can envision in the manifold of its potentials a new and desirable possibility, which faith then fixes upon as inevitable.
Walter Wink, Engaging The Powers (1992)

One hand on the bible,
One hand on the gun.

Jim Croce, Which Way Are You Going? (1972)

At the very heart of the great liberation event of the biblical narrative, God calls all people of faith and conscience to a deep level of trust in the face of violence and economic uncertainty. As the Christian theologian Jim McClendon wrote in the 80s, in the early days of Israel, "God planted a seed of nonviolence." The People of God escaped slavery without raising a single weapon and, once freed in the wilderness, gathered their daily bread, shunning the surplus so that everyone got to eat.

The Bible is called "Scripture" by the faithful because it functions as a script for radical living. After all, we are all just "supporting actors" on stage with the Main Character whose compassion and solidarity are vitally unique in the history of religions. This is a God who responds passionately to the shedding of blood on the 3rd page of the Hebrew Bible: "What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground." And yet, this God is strangely merciful, opting against capital punishment, offering Cain a 2nd chance for a hard-but-redeemed life of sojourning. And, so, this God calls us to do the same.

And the Bible is called "sacred" by those with a conscience because it mysteriously transcends the centuries millenia, always finding a way to stay current, as it variously confronts, challenges and comforts us along the way. This Word of God is by no means error-free or certain or self-evident, but for those (like Jeremiah and Jesus) who see with eyes of compassion and solidarity, the Sacred Script calls us to a new kind of Life over and over again.

The Bible, however mythical and metaphorical, is based in Reality. It has the tenacious tendency of wringing us free from the lies and illusions that soak up our surroundings like a sponge. But this Bible demands to be read carefully and critically.

Unfortunately, too many American Christians are spurning trust and humility by replacing the Sacred Script with the Myth of Redemptive Violence. As the old prophet Jim Croce sang four decades ago, they've got "One hand on the Bible/One hand on the gun." They fight the crazies with more guns, concealed in the hands of administrators, teachers and guards. They fight the terrorists with more drones and indefinite detention. They fight the illegals with beefed up borders.

Far too many "trust Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior" and then justify their fearmongering of "the other" with dualistic, us-versus-them jargon. In the words of the NRA's president Wayne LaPierre: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." This Manichean worldview divides the world into two distinct groups of people: bad guys and good guys. And the arrogant corollary: we know which one is which. Good = Us. Bad = Them.

This is not how the compassionate reign of God functions in the Sacred Script. In the New World that we dedicate our lives to advocating for, all our weapons will be welded into instruments of provision and sustenence (Isaiah 2:4). This, of course, is not a call for naivete and idealism. It is, however, a charge to wrestle with nuance and complexity, as we embrace creative and strategic policies that protect the innocent and rehabilitate those who have been wounded, sidelined, victimized and marginalized by the systems of our world.

In 2013, may we reject dualistic descriptions of life and become dialetical devotees of the Way of trust, simplicity, generosity, compassion and humility. May we be vigilant about taking personal inventory of our lives and may we be virtuous to our neighbors, especially those who think and look differently than us. May we reject narcissism, apathy and indifference and advocate for those less privileged and powerful than us: the unemployed, the undocumented, the adolescent and the aging.

In the aftermath of the Christmas season, may we reflect on the whole life of the newborn from Bethlehem. It's a lot easier to admire the infant in swaddling clothes than to follow his teachings: love your enemies, share your possessions, replace anxiety & fear with trust, give your life for the abused and abandoned. As Croce sang, "You say you love the baby/Then you crucify the man."
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A Prayer for us to meditate on this year (from the Mennonite Hymnal):

Spirit of Peace,
Quiet our hearts.
Heal our anxious thoughts.
Free us from our fretful ways.

Breathe on us your holy calm
So that, in the stillness of your presence
We may open ourselves to trust
And be transformed.
Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Exodus. The problem with this passage is that later it is stated in Exodus, 35:2; that you/I are to rest on the seventh day and that if we do not, that we are to be put to death. It is a violent and ridiculous book as far as I am concerned.

    I also fail to see the peace in Exodus 21:20-21 If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

    I do love a great many of Jim Croce's songs.

    I wonder if people will read this sentence about the Bible being a radical book and really think about it. The Bible IS really a radical book, and I do not like it. Jesus says no thought for the morrow fore there is too much to worry about today. How is that going to solve anything? How is that being responsible? To what extreme is one to take this to? Shall we all become stoner hippies? Jesus also preached thrift, a lack of innovation and YES against family life as well.

    Just because Jesus' family members made mention that he was mad, it may just have been the way that they spoke back then. But the point is that Jesus was a radical man who seems to be at times kind and other times asinine, rude and cruel, not very peaceful.

    As C. S. Lewis said, Jesus would not be a moral teacher. Either Jesus is/was the son of God or else he would be the Devil of Hell. (The hell that Jesus brought to this world, before Jesus, other God(s) were to be done with you once you died, and at worse Gods might treat your kin poorly, but not until Jesus showed up did we have to worry about being tormented in Hell for the rest of eternity.)

    If God planted a seed of nonviolence then that MUST be planted/created through someones own perspective due to their favor and bias towards the Bible.

    The Bible is a book from and of yesteryear and should not be taken as a current book. Once again, if it is taken as sacred, that is only done by followers and it is their perspective to make it so. It is so NOT a current book and is so phony and filled with holes that it could not possibly understand the medical advances that we have today. They did not even know that the Earth went around the Sun back then, the Bible should not and cannot be a current book.

    (More later - hopefully. Well, I guess that depends on ones perspective.)
    As Much Love as I can Give,
    Trevor

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