Paris, Peace, Racism, and the Way Forward
We're driving across the country when I hear the news. Paris, again. My mind is already swirling because someone very dear to me is in a place where people cannot talk of their faith with another person, where you can lose your home for having a Bible study, where God moves through His Spirit with healings and visions and dreams because his flesh and blood body is bound.
We travel to help friends do God's work in small places and we think nothing of telling friends, strangers, and family our purpose in the mission. We share pictures on Facebook, lead a small devotion in a hotel lobby, talk openly of our work without fear. The awesome privilege to do these things does not escape me.
Yet at the same time, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Paris. Creation and its inhabitants groan with a longing to be made new.
And then, politics.
The turmoil in our land has resurrected deep introspection. It's time to acknowledge the racism of my roots. In many ways subtle, in other ways overt, I have viewed those who look different as different. I have judged by mere appearances. I have listened to family, observed culture, and taken in messages unawares.
Yet, even as I make these acknowledgments, I do not know the way forward. I do not know how to respond as a peacemaker in the face of racist attitudes. People rarely respond well to a confrontational declaration of their wrong. Our goal must extend beyond behavior modification. Only deep heart change can heal the wounds from which we are all suffering.
I know my own idealism, my tendency to see the world as it ought to be and not as it is and the despair that results when I compare the two. I falter when I try to envision practical steps to move the world from where is it to where it ought to be. At the same time, I know the fallenness of my own heart and understand the incompleteness of my vision for the future. We do not all share the same worldview and inevitably, conflict will arise. But I still dream of a world this side of heaven where we experience universal freedom of religion, expression, and speech that allows conflicting worldviews to live in peace, to work toward universal human flourishing, and that affords dignity to every human life.
In the wistful romantic drama The First Knight, Sean Connery plays the gallant King Arthur whose peaceful nation faces violence at the hands of power-hungry Prince Malagant who will do anything to topple Arthur to become king. The ruling knights have varied opinions on how to deal with the threat to their peaceful world wrought by Malagant, including a plan to appease him. In a moment of daring leadership, King Arthur declares with passion that in some circumstances, "There is a peace that can only be had on the other side of war." I fear our world moves swiftly toward such a time as this.
At the same time, within our own country, we wage war against enemies that do not need to be enemies. Some police officers unfairly target and kill black men and some black men retaliate by killing police. Fear and adrenaline combined with cultural conditioning drop a lit match into the gasoline tank of racial tension. Yet, these problems cannot be solved by war -- they must be solved with peace, conversation, education, and humility.
There are other threats, however, that do not appear to be resolvable with conversation or reason. While we must resist the urge to view every individual of one class as a threat, we must see the real threats for what they are -- nothing less than an attempt to destroy the values of freedom, diversity, and peace which we hold dear.
Difficult days lie ahead. There is much work to do. We must decide who we want to be. For followers of the Way, we seek to live out ancient principles of love, peace, and reconciliation. We vow to, in as much as it depends on us, live at peace with all people. We consider our words carefully both in person and on social media so that we can build up all people, and not tear them down. We model, however imperfectly, God's call to be people of reconciliation in a world that longs to divide, categorize, and shame. We endeavor to seek peace, and pursue it, in our homes, families, workplaces, communities, and countries.
At the same time, we commit to see evil as an enemy to be defeated -- not a difficulty to be contained. We face with clarity and conviction the sacrifices that must be made to ensure the peaceful continuation of civilized society. Not for power, profit, or personal gain, but for peace, love, and the good of all mankind.