Over the past week I received not a few emails from the likes of you, dear readers, asking why I had not posted any reflections, missives or rhetorical theo-bombs over the shooting and ensuing violence in
Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Missouri.
One email asked (with- in my imagination- forked tongue) if I only cared about the poor and dispossessed in Guatemala.
A European subscriber asked if homosexuality was the only current ‘issue’ over which I could muster any passion.
More than several pressed me, wondering if my silence on Ferguson was actually reticence, fear to comment on a story on which my congregation would disagree.
On that point, let me just add here that I serve a largely military community that long ago learned how to integrate its ranks and to do it- comparatively- well, and that the soldiers in my community have sacrificed much so that we could be the kind of nation where OUR POLICE don’t walk the streets dressed like soldiers.
Allow another aside: Our soldiers sacrifices are for naught if we’ve created a society where our police must walk our streets as soldiers.
Back to the emailed interrogatories on my radio silence re: Ferguson-
Short Answer: I took a few days off to pass my kids off to their grandparents.
Long Answer: I’m not sure social media contributes anything meaningful to the media feeding frenzy. I don’t trust my own motives in posting, as it will surely just lead to ‘clickable’ post titles and tags. Race relations in America are owed more than 800 word thoughts. I’m not there. I, we, don’t know exactly what happened so better to wait than retract.Write what you know.
But then President Obama et al kept serving up a cliche I do feel warrants a (theological response):
‘Now is the time for calm and peace.’
This in the wake of the nightly looting and violence. In the wake of the shooting (6x) to an unarmed black boy: ‘Now is the time for calm and peace.’
You know our society has jumped the shark when Rand Paul offers the most prophetic word. I hardly condone base, mindless looting, but after living 10 years in DC I know that ‘now is the time for calm and peace’ translates roughly to:
‘Everyone- stop being so angry. Return to your normal lives and wait for change which you will quickly forget until the next Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin.’
‘Now is the time for calm and peace’ means stop agitating in a way that a nearly all-white, militarized police force will be forced to retaliate. Instead, patiently wait for your do-nothing Congress to never deliver any meaningful change and wait for your press to likewise do nothing until the next headline-grabbing story.’
Even if necessary, even if offered by a black President ‘Now is the time for calm and peace’ is a prescription offered by someone who is not ill themselves. It’s the proposal from someone in power.
It’s the suggestion from the status quo to keep everyone’s status, quo.
My real quibble, however, is how President Obama and other pols and pundits mindlessly throw around ‘peace’ as though it’s their word to (mis)use at their pleasure.
Quibble isn’t really the right word.
I’m righteously angry that so many, for whom the status quo serves their status, use OUR word ‘peace’ to maintain the world the way it is- or was 5 minutes ago.
I’m angry because in both Testaments the word ‘‘peace” is shalom. What we hear with the English word ‘peace’ is only a partial definition of ‘shalom.’
It doesn’t mean the absence of violence.
Shalom is when/where all things are reconciled.
Shalom is the final product of God’s very first promise never to abandon God’s creation.
As Brian Zahnd points out, Hebrew-English dictionaries define shalom as the state where ‘nothing is missing and nothing is broken.’
It’s the word that motivates the Word that breathes all things into existence.
It’s the word behind the words to the promise to Abraham to (re)bless the whole world.
It’s the word that sums up what God is doing in and through the Word, Jesus Christ.
word ministry given to Jesus followers right before the Cross.
And it’s the first
word ministry given to them right after Easter.
I don’t care how you parse the events in Ferguson over the past week or whose side you take in the altercation that led to the boy’s murder.
It doesn’t matter.
Because calm or not, returning to what was prior IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’
Even if Michael Brown had returned home unharmed, ‘peace’ is not what he would’ve enjoyed. Protesters ceasing and desisting and returning to their homes to scratch out meager wages in an unfair, segregated context IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’ Reporters moving on to the next feeding frenzy IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’ Affluent you and me returning to our normally scheduled TV programming, FB likes or Social Media postings IS NOT what the Bible refers to as ‘peace.’
Peace, according to God, according to the Easter Jesus, is when a black President can speak out on a racial issue without half the country reflexively chalking it up to being ‘racially motivated.’
Peace, according to Yahweh, is where there is no death row much less one where 9/10 are black and from neighborhoods even worse than Ferguson and sent there by jurors, judges and lawyers who look like me.
Biblical peace is when you ask someone in a city where is the white school and where is the black school and they have no freaking idea what you’re talking about.
Biblical peace is where we- police and citizens- don’t fear the ‘other’ because we’ve pushed them and ostracized them and segregated them into hopeless neighborhoods, failing schools and dead-end futures.
Peace, Jesus’ kind of peace, is where America can finally repentantly confront that it is a nation whose prosperity was built upon the blood of slaves, a sin whose effects fester even today.
Peace is where we can confess that sin and seek reconciliation all the while without a need to justify ourselves.
There’s a lot more needed to even come close to that word ‘peace’ but I thought that’s a start.
At least, President Obama is right on one part of his sentence. Ever since Easter, ‘now’ IS the time.