Three ways to turn up the Love during a violent week

On November 17, 1957 MLK was preaching in Montgomery [full text and lots of audio here] when he said “Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.” It’s actually pretty simple. I have a lot of feelings – some of which might be approaching hate and I need to check my heart.

I’m heavy today for Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, ISIS, and the United States. I am also feeling heavy about the situation around the violent conflict that put a gay couple in the hospital in Center City a two weeks ago. As I’ve been praying through (always wise) all the violence, I am trying to listen for God to direct me for how to respond rather than shoot from the hip all the time. Here are three things that I feel will turn up the love during a particularly violent week.

Turn up the good news, especially those that fly in the face of conventional hate.

One of my best friends leaves today on a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to Iraqi Kurdistan. You may want to read more about what Peggy Gish (working there now with CPT) had to say about it last week in her blog about a step to coming up with new strategies is halting the old, dysfunctional ones. I tend to think most things in the media [whether intentional or not] pull Americans away from the super military waging war for the windfall of profits for transnational corporations. Like so many other empires, if we have enough food to survive and something to keep us entertained we’ll tacitly go along with the bigger plan.

When ISIS cuts off heads on camera or gets headlines from Austrailia to Indonesia to Algeria, the US ramps up fear which increases our tacit approval of this horrible war. When we turn up the good news, God can use us to assuage fear that keeps the violence cycle going. Come out on October 7 to make some good news in the face of Drone Warfare if you want to be with a bunch of Philadelphians trying to do the same thing.

Before you put someone on blast, consider whether you are actually as confident as you are about to sound. It’s easy and often cheap to make blanket statements, stereotypes, and colorful remarks to get people to “like” your passionate status before we understand what we’re really talking about. As someone whose attempts to make space for more dialogue and often is dips into the rhetorical, I need to watch my mouth – and it’s hard.

I feel fortunate that it wasn’t too long after I read the “Meet the Three Worst People in Philadelphia” blog that I saw a beautiful statement by the victims. For some it’s tempting to dehumanize the victims by not listening to them as people by not taking their ask seriously.

Thank you to the  community for their help and support, as well as the Detectives who did a great job gathering details,” they wrote. “We are thankful the DA is working so hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again in Philadelphia. Finally, we ask you to keep your comments regarding the suspects respectful and non-hateful. Please show your support for legislation change protecting the LGBT community this Thursday in LOVE Park at 2 p.m.

For others it’s tempting to dehumanize the perps in all sorts of ways, by doing so alleviating our responsibility to make a more whole community. You may want to join the throngs of posts commenting on their parents, Twitter feed, zip codes, or work history – as if we know them, don’t think they can get better, and don’t think we are anything like them. I really appreciate people for zooming out even through the pain. Besides having an occasion to update PA’s lack of “hate crime” distinction for future violence prevention, some people are even taking a societal sense of responsibility in their anger. On a Raging Chicken Press post, Debra Leigh Scott pleads that the “reality is that Kathryn Knott [one of the suspects] is OUR child. She is the poster child of the kind of people born and raised in America. Fired in the kiln of inequality, elitism, prejudice, consumerism and fear, she is just what America’s schools, media and values create.”

We need to make more love. MLK was working with some Jesus in Matthew 26 when he was preaching above. Like him, I don’t want to go out as a person to die by the sword – whether it a physical or metaphorical weapon. Living by the sword is confusingLike when my cell was talking about how confusing violence in the Middle East is for us, Scott shared this little gem.

We need more lovers and we need them to outlove the haters and transform the bystanders. We need lovers who will demonstrate to others what it means to be a lover. We need love to dismantle systemic injustice. We need love to make our communities whole. What do you think we can do to turn up the Love this week?

As I finish the 2nd steeping of pu-erh (that was love-ly at least), I’m about to go hug my family and take them to celebrate the compassionate work in our community. Come on by if you want to be with some lovers tonight.

Four things for Christians to Never Forget on September 11

I was surprised by how many of my Facebook friends this morning were posting #neverforget. I looked at how it was trending and there were various politicians like Congressman Joseph Kennedy III referencing our “darkest days” and how we learned about defending and protecting. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a number of conversations around 9/11 with people I love that generate more anxiety than understanding over the years. I want to appeal specifically to those of us following Jesus to never forget a few things today because there is so much we could forget if we’re too ensnared by the status quo.

Today reminds people of their pain and sometimes brings hurt feelings back up. No need to be too terse or cynical on or about a day that many Americans – especially for people from the NYC area – find to be really sensitive. 

One time I had someone end a conversation about 9/11 with me by saying “I guess we just feel it more because we’re from around there” as a way to not question anything about the CNN version of the story. I’ve talked to a surprising number of people who lost friends, family or had their dad working in the building, or had a friend who was home sick when he should have been at his desk in one of the towers. For many Americans, it’s easy to feel belittled or get defensive as soon as dialogue begins. For people of Arab decent (also South Asians and others who might resemble Arabs to the ignorant) 911 was a watershed moment for an exponential increase of anti-Arab racism in the US and islamophobia.

We need to learn what to do with our pain so it doesn’t just hurt others. We have possibilities to mend, connect, forgive, listen, speak, and be heard. We also have the option to respond by inflicting more damage. Thankfully, there are many who allow their grief and loss to be transformed into something beautiful. This post from Shaner today about an event that we did a few years ago carries a potent message…”On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we hosted an event called ‘Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream’ and one of the folks who moved us with her testimony was Terry Rockefeller who lost her sister in the World Trade Center. She has used her pain to fuel a movement of victims working for peace.”

Today is a rally cry for both the war machine and the resistance. Perpetual preemptive war rages on. Statistics Brain, with their narrative, lists causalities of the day including in the towers, NYC, the flights, and in the Pentagon – it’s almost 3,000 deaths. Costs of War breaks out just the direct deaths in Afghanistan (21,000 civilians), Iraq (133,000 civilians), and the secret war in Pakistan (20,000-50,000 civilians).

Some of the resistance has a different rally cry, one that some find as offensive as others find slogans such as “these colors don’t run” or a certain Toby Keith song. One of my friends from high school worked on one of the early 9/11 Truth Films and one of my favorite rappers (who happens to be from Harlem) wrote a song about it [warning: lots of bad words]. I think there are a lot of ways to resist war making and war profiteering, I think the best is making peace with Jesus.

Jesus is making peace like it was His job as the church continues to fracture. Some fly American flags during their worship, others speak out for those oppressed by the military the flag represents, and others remain ambivalent. Even though it’s uncomfortable, I think we still need to be in the mix with Jesus – speaking and acting for peace. While we need to be in the middle of conflict, let’s be caring and as sensitive as possible; for God, for those who died and those are still hurting in the US, as well as those who seem further away but suffer no less. Working for peace is not just criticizing the fighting or being correct about an issue. It is cultivating possibilities for healing, respect, and justice.