Violence Proofing the World
It all started with a meeting following Sandy Hook. A group from our congregation gathered to talk about gun violence. More meetings followed. We sponsored a "Respectful Conversation" led by a person trained by the Minnesota Council of Churches. Then followed a sign proposal, desiring to put a sign at the church entrance to read something like: GUNS ARE BANNED IN THIS PLACE OF WORSHIP. BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS. A meeting was suggested to talk about it. One person who objected to the sign attended. Another meeting with a couple more people. I lobbied for a session on gun violence prevention. However, apart from me, no one, including the pastors, wanted to deal with GVP, even though gun violence had been the initial reason for the planning session. Instead, the result is a six session series on "Violence Proofing the Person, the Home, the Community, and the World", preceded by a pastor talking about Biblical interpretation and concluded by a conversation about action steps.
My assignment was to lead the session on VIOLENCE PROOFING THE WORLD. I WILL bring up gun violence! Guns and militarization are an integral part of world violence. The session plan will be: 1) THEOLOGY: First Things First; 2) Violence Proofing Axioms; 3) Step Up, Speak Up, Act Up!-Violence Today. The next three blogs will focus on these areas.
THEOLOGY: First Things First
Christians bring specific menu items to the table conversation about violence proofing the world. The Christian grace is to be the main course of this meal. We need the right energy food to engage violence. What foods are we given?
The WORD. GENESIS speaks of God's original action of creating the world and being pleased, calling everything good. There was no violence. Shalom and harmony were the design. The Fall follows. Human choice poisons God's design intention. The apple. Cain's murder of his brother Abel. Choice. Noah is the story of cleansing and starting over. God's mercy. Never again. The Tower of Babel signifying global arrogance leading to division. Abraham becomes God's person of blessing for the world. Violence was not smiled upon. Even God cancelled it.
The EXODUS is liberation. The violence of slavery was not God's intention for God's people. God's Ten Commandments were given to guide the faithful to living the God-life. No violence here! Obedience and ethics were woven into one. More Law books followed. Guidance for the faith life. Worship and ethics bound together.
Books of history followed. Blood. Power. War. Conquering Canaan and murdering everyone not Hebrew. Captivity. Division of the Kingdoms. More war. Supposedly God was on the side of the Chosen People. At least so the writers of history announced. Historians have a knack of interpreting events through prejudiced minds, too frequently using God to justify national intentions. I would suggest this was the Deuteronomic historians plan. Not that God cannot work through war and genocide. But were these wars and slaughters God's will? I question this conclusion.
Hence the PROPHETS. God working through tragedy, injustice, and war, yes. BUT, God willing this sadness, oppression of the poor and powerless? No. The prophets called for justice, mercy, love, and transformation. And often pointed to Jesus.
JESUS. Union of God and humanity. God choosing to become human to remind us what it means to be a human being created in God's Image. Throughout history and the Biblical narrative we read of a constant departure from God's will. In Jesus, God says to us, "You just don't get it! You forgot my will for you! I will show you again." In Jesus, we are given both a human example of lifestyle and of grace and freedom and call to live within God's Image. Justice, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. Nonviolence reflects God's Image. Jesus is ultimate nonviolence!
ACTS: Preach, teach, and take care of each other according to need. Where is the call to violence?
PAUL: Paul is the first theologian of nonviolence. Consider the Fruits of the Spirit and the Armor of God, both shrouded in nonviolence. In Romans 12, Paul exhorts the Christ followers to not conform themselves to this world. The passage about being subject to the governing authorities is book ended by the call to love. Furthermore, there were no Christians in Roman authority. Finally, Paul wrote Romans in the midst of Nero's murderous reign, meaning that Paul wanted to protect Christians.
REVELATION: Courage in the midst of the reign of the murderous Diocletian. No call to arms. Only the promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth. Hope. God is in charge of history!
HOLY BAPTISM is God's welcome in, God's choosing us to be part of God's family, forgiving us. Our Affirmation of Baptism calls us to live among God's faithful people, hear the Word of God and share in the Lord's Supper, proclaim the good news of God through word and deed, serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and strive for justice and peace in all the earth. We promise to do these actions.
I am reminded of Dr. Franklin Littell's comment: "We must realize that the Holocaust would never have happened if Protestants and Catholics had not betrayed their baptism."
THE LORD'S SUPPER offers forgiveness and the invitation to come and meet Jesus. We partake with other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of a communion, a community, not alone, united with all Christians world wide. Then the invitation of "all are welcome!" Some try to limit the invite to only those who can rightly and doctrinally qualify. The LS means "come and meet Jesus." For some reason, everyone who enters our churches enter because of the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. They may have been out of the church or never been part of the community. BUT THEY WALKED THROUGH THE DOOR! Come and meet Jesus! Jesus has a a gift of grace for you! The LS is the ultimate answer to division. Diversity is the LS's calling card!
Holy Scripture is burgeoning with grace! Freedom! Hope! Love! Given for us that we may be Christ in the world. We can remember Bonhoeffer: "We Lutherans have gathered like eagles around the carcass of cheap grace and thereby killed the life of following Christ."
The Word showers us with grace upon grace, that we can lead the costly life of violence proofing the world. Eliminating violence? Probably not. But giving witness and an intentional try to reflect God's love, a resounding yes! The grace is always present to repent and start over, learn new things, forgive time after time, and lay aside hate. Let us begin, again!