Peace among grand juries, waterboards, and Christmas trees

peace candleMuch has been said, and much more will be said, and much more should be said of the staggering inequalities that still face our fellow humans residing in the self-proclaimed land of the free. Of the violence perpetrated against Muslims in our name, and the sickeningly racist and vengeful responses by those who swear loyalty a tortured man condemned on a cross. These wounds feel fresh and new, but it is only because we have ignored them while they festered, along with all of our other violences, which are legion.

Make no mistake,
racism is anti-Christ,
torture is anti-Christ,
hating those made in God’s image, even those of other races, faiths, or lifestyles, is anti-Christ

and the world feels it, whether they know Christ or not. Protest after protest, speech after speech, violent retribution after violent retribution, all proclaim that there is no justice, and there is no peace.

All the while a voice crying in the wilderness of American news entertainment hopes the anger and pain won’t interrupt the lighting of a Christmas tree. We live in a land and a world beset by violence, physical and otherwise, and our leaders cry out, “Peace, peace!” We can ignore it for a time, because it might not affect us. It’s those other people and other places, and they probably deserve it. Or we feel violence has already been healed. We went to the seminar, we had a committee at our church, we elected the guy who railed against it. We didn’t commit violence, not us. “Peace, peace,” the land is healed, let us have our Christmas tree in peace. But if God hates our festivals when there is no justice, I’m sure He hates the trees we chop down as if they were our fellow humans, soon to wither in the heat of our violent world.

Much has been said of our current violence, so let us say something of peace. The peace of Christ is not the peace of this world, the Pax Romanas and Pax Americanas built upon the bodies of their enemies and protected by the same violence we flee. The peace of Christ is not simply the absence of conflict, it is complete reconciliation. All races and nations, annoying neighbors, and evil bosses playing with the wolf and the lamb. Every last one of us who swears loyalty to the tortured man who died on the cross are commanded to commit ourselves to achieving this peace. Blessed are the peacemakers, not those waiting in peace, not those waiting on peace, not those unaffected by violence, not those who think they are innocent because they don’t see the corpses under their feet, not those who think peace is impractical, not those who accept things the way they are. Blessed are the peacemakers.

To achieve this peace, Jesus taught us that though we’ve been told to love our friends, we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. When we do, it is harder to strike against them in our world’s endless cycles of violence. As former war correspondent Chris Hedges puts it so well in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning: “Many of those who defy the collective psychosis of the nation are solitary figures once the war ends. Yet these acts of compassion are usually the best antidotes to the myths peddles by the nationalists.  Those who reached across lines to assist the “enemy” freed themselves from nationalist abstractions that dehumanized others. They were vaccinated against the cult of death that dominates societies in wartime.” (Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. New York: Anchor Books 2002, 49)

Peacemaking really is like a vaccine. It is disruptive, and there will be side effects. Our world is broken, fallen, and feeds on violence. The system is not broken; it is functioning as darkly as the world who birthed it. In a world that relies on violence, a lot of people stand to lose much when (not if) Jesus’ peace comes. Peacemaking can and will run against the death machine. So if peacemaking means we disrupt our lives or the lives of the violent, fear not. The vaccine is acting as it should. And if there are side effects, we should not be surprised the virus is fighting for its life.

We will also hear the voice of vaccine truthers whose objections mirror those who doubt medical vaccines. The risk of complications is too high. What if our enemies strike back stronger? What if we sacrifice too much and undo our world? We don’t know if it will work; has it been tested properly? The disease isn’t that bad; it isn’t worth all this risk and trouble. As long as it doesn’t affect the heart (of our homeland), we’ll be fine. But violence runs to only one end: death. There is no living with the disease, it must be eradicated. We must be vaccinated.

This past Sunday, countless churches around the world lit the second candle of Advent, representing peace. Just days after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Days before we learned the depth of depravity embodied by American torturers. The distress of the last month does nothing to disprove the vaccine; rather it demands it. May everyone who swears loyalty to the tortured man who overcame the cross be emboldened by the cure to reach out in love to those we are told to hate.

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Peace among grand juries, waterboards, and Christmas trees

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