imagine...

Last night I read these words in Barbara Brown Taylor's book, An Altar in the World:

When people wanted Jesus to tell them what God's realm was like, he told them stories about their own lives. When people wanted him to tell them God's truth about something, he asked them what they thought. With all kinds of opportunities to tell people what to think, he told them what to do instead. Wash feet. Give your stuff away. Share your food. Favor reprobates. Pray for those who are out to get you. Be the first to say, "I'm sorry." For those who took him as their model, being fully human became a full-time job. It became a vocation in itself, no matter what they happened to do for a living.


Today the overwhelming majority of our House of Representatives - most of whom consider themselves serious and even fundamentalist Christians - voted to deny hospitality and hope to Syrian refugees.  It is an election year so pandering and fear-mongering of the worst type are rampant. It is also one of the consequences of blurring the lines between love of God and love of country - and it breaks my heart..

I understand fear and anger. We all give in to it countless times every day; it is part of human nature. I fell victim to the lure of fear and anger after September 11th and got caught up in "getting them" like so many others.. But here's the rub: fear and anger only brings people together in solidarity against a common enemy for a short time. Its allure wears off. Then, like a junkie in need of a fix, we need more fear and violence to remain focused. We need more scapegoating and selling our soul to our lowest common denominator to maintain our momentum. It is the cycle of violence the late Rene Girard exposed so brilliantly:

People can desire anything, as long as other people seem to desire it, too: that is the meaning of Girard's concept of "mimetic desire." Since people tend toward the same objects of desire, jealousy and rivalry are inevitable sources of social tension -- and perfect themes for the great novelists. After his successful writings on modern literature, curious to find out how well his "mimetic theory" of imitative behavior might explain the human past, Girard studied anthropology and myths from around the world. He was struck by another series of similarities: myth after myth told a story of collective violence. Only one man can be king, the most enviable individual, but everyone can share in the persecution of a victim. Societies unify themselves by focusing their imitative desires on the destruction of a scapegoat. Girard hypothesized that the violent persecution of scapegoats is at the origin of the ubiquitous human institution of ritual sacrifice, the foundation of archaic religions. Girard then turned to the relationship between rituals of sacrifice and the many acts of violence recorded in the founding documents of the religions of the modern West (including the secular religion known as the Enlightenment): the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Gospels. Girard interpreted the Bible as a gradual revelation of the injustice of human violence. The culmination, Jesus's crucifixion, is unprecedented not because it pays a debt humans owe to God, but because it reveals the truth of all sacrifice: the victim of a mob is always innocent, and collective violence is always covered over with a lie. (http://www.imitatio.org/mimetic-theory/a-very-brief-introduction.html)

His startling conclusion is that over and over history repeats itself as we surrender to fear and hatred. Jesus exposes this "original sin" - our desire for security through killing the scapegoat - but tells the story not from the perspective of the victorious, but rather the vanquished. Jesus shows us how we become viscous, self-righteous hypocrites who terrorize the innocent in the name of "national security" and religion. He shows us the consequence of our fear and violence and offers an alternative when he prays: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." And keep on doing over and over again.


So let's be clear: the alternative Jesus offers to remaining addicted to fear and anger is called compassion, forgiveness and contemplation. In prayer, we confront our own demons so that we don't dump them out upon the world and pass our confusion and terror on to to others.  In forgiveness we interrupt the cycle of violence and bring it to resolution within our flesh.  And in compassion we begin to see the essence of Christ in the flesh and blood of those who are most vulnerable. Matthew 25 is instructive: when did we see, Thee, Lord...? Whenever you fed the hungry, welcome the stranger, visited the lonely...you did so unto Me.

There is empirical evidence that America's mainstream is becoming more fear-based, angry and open to violence. We are hostile and afraid of those who are not white and middle class, more so than at any time in the last 50 years. PRRI's recent survey of American values - Anxiety, Nostalgia and Mistrust - makes this clear. (check it out: http://publicreligion.org /research/2015/11/survey-anxiety-nostalgia-and-mistrust-findings-from-the-2015-american-values-survey/#.Vk5sjNKrSt9) Donald Trump's neo-Nazi rants about registering Muslims and John Kasich's appeal to nativist, so-called Christian hysteria are just the tip of an ugly ice berg. This is the soil upon which facism flourishes.

How many times have you heard people complain: where are the moderate Muslims to condemn this act of terrorism? I confess that I've said it and maybe you have, too. Well, now is the time to ask: where are the moderate (or radical) Christians who will stand with the innocents and call out the fear and hatred of our sisters and brothers in Christ? The time has come to boldly challenge them with the alternative of contemplation and compassion. In ways I could never have imagined, today I feel more solidarity with secular French allies who make music in the face of guns and boldly reassert the power of love in the public square rather those who cower in our churches and foment fear, anger and bigotry.  

This Sunday - at 3:00 pm - we're going to share some compassion and beauty and love in a tender, contemplative way -. and I hope you will join us for MISSA GAIA.  This concert wasn't intended to be a protest against the fear and anger of this era. Rather, it was conceived as part of our sabbatical experience wherein we offered a benefit concert for one of our mission partners. But in my heart, making this music in concert with this group of musicians has become a living a testimony to the world I want to live in. 

It calls to mind the pianist in Paris who dragged his instrument on his bicycle to the Bataclan to play "Imagine" for those still in shock. "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one... I hope some day you'll join us and the world will live as one."


I truly hope this day you will join us.

Comments

CAROLINE MACK said…
When I click your RSS feed it looks like a whole lot of weird text, is the issue on my side?Thought I would comment and say cool theme, did you code it on your own? It looks really good!
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