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
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."
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.