Beliefnet
O Me of Little Faith

I haven’t posted anything yet about Saturday’s shooting in Arizona. Not because I don’t have anything to say about it, but because I’m not sure that my opinion matters. And as someone who struggles with certainty, I’m not in any position to point fingers…other than to point at our political system and say that parts of it are broken. And while I’m at it, I’ll also point at the people who make up that political system. They’re broken, too.

So am I. I’m a part of it. I’m broken.

Also, I hate politics. I hate how it pits normally reasonable people against each other.

I have liberal friends who see Sarah Palin and her gun-target graphics and us-versus-them rhetoric and conclude that conservatives, or the Tea Party, or Rush Limbaugh are to blame for the culture of hatred that has infected the political system. And these friends wonder how anyone with any common sense can support Palin or listen to Limbaugh or whatever.

I have conservative friends who are still hurt by the old hatred directed at George W. Bush — or the current contempt for Sarah Palin (which is just as violent and disturbing as anything directed at Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama) — and conclude that liberals are to blame for the culture of hatred that has infected the political system. These friends wonder how anyone with a lick of morality or reason can take that side.

So we pick a side, and then we choose to hate the other side. We call them evil, stupid, or brainwashed. We laser in on what they’re doing wrong while ignoring our own failures and inconsistencies. We are absolutely certain that we are right and that they are wrong and nothing you say can convince us otherwise.

But…

Many of my friends who are political liberals have taken that position because their Christian beliefs brought them there. Voting Democrat is a way for them to be faithful.

Living in Texas, I have many more friends who are political conservatives because of their religious beliefs. Likewise, voting Republican is a way for them to be faithful.

But this hasn’t stopped these Christians on both sides from despising the other, from demonizing the other, from refusing to listen to the other. Why? Because both religion and politics tend to make us certain, and our certainty makes us arrogant, and our arrogance makes us want to win.

And I hate it.

Blessed are the peacemakers. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you.

If we insist on demonizing our political enemies, then we have to ignore a lot of what Jesus said. Ignoring Jesus is a tricky position for Christians to take, but we do it. A lot.

We’re broken.

On New Year’s Eve,
in Alexandria, Egypt, terrorists bombed a Coptic Orthodox Christian Church. Experts blame Al-Qaeda. The blast killed 21 worshipers and injured 96 more. Protests and violent demonstrations followed, especially in Cairo. In an explosive religious climate, already heated tensions threatened to boil over.

Then, last Thursday, thousands of Egyptian Muslims joined together to stop the hatred. Instead of protesting or rioting, they gathered around Coptic churches as those churches celebrated Christmas Eve (their calendar differs from ours). The Muslims acted as human shields to prevent further attacks. They took on significant personal risk in order to stand with the other side, in order to let the other side pursue what they believed in.

In that part of the world, Christians and Muslims rarely work together. They disagree on many, many things, and with deep religious certainty. They are, for lack of a better word, each others’ enemies.

But last week, the Egyptian Muslims stopped denouncing their enemies and, instead, stood in solidarity with them. “We either live together, or we die together,” they said. They are loving their neighbors…even the neighbors they disagree with.

There is hope for broken societies, and that hope comes from intentional actions of understanding. It comes from extending the kind of grace that makes people uncomfortable. At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, it is a civility and humanity that comes from love.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Maybe if I keep saying it, it won’t just be a phrase from the Bible. Maybe it’ll turn into an action. Maybe peacemaking will become more than a lofty concept. Maybe it’ll become something I do.

 

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