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In which it’s been 12 years since that horrible day

Make a bit of room in your day for the remembering, for the grieving, for the praying.

America, we are all praying for you and loving you today.

How has it been twelve years since we all beheld the sight of towers crumbling, planes against a blue sky, unflappable news man Peter Jennings unable to speak?  I am remembering my horror – true shrieking innocent horror, hands to my mouth, crying for days – as people flung themselves out of tall buildings rather than remain inside to be burned alive.

Do you remember the posters that went up all over Manhattan of the missing? I am remembering people covered in blood and dust, the terror and agony we all felt. I am remembering the weeping and the mourning all across the world, how we were all Americans that day. I was in the United States at that time of my life, just a 3 month newlywed, and I remember the patriotism, the giving, the love, the deep sadness and even yes, the anger, the rage, and need for revenge.

I won’t ever forget it. We’ve grown jaded and suspicious, sardonic and pragmatic, but on that day, we felt it all and we were changed.

Today I’m grieving for every child that has grown up without a parent, every mother who buried her child, every person with nightmares and pain and fear, every person wounded in their body, their mind and their heart as a result of that day.

I’m also remembering the worldwide military and their families. Those that serve and serve and serve, those that are wounded emotionally and physically, those that lost their lives. I am remembering them far away from their families, struggling and battling, keeping watching with courage and bravery I can only imagine.

I’m remembering the thousands and thousands Iraqi and Afghani citizens who are referred to as “collateral damage” from the fall-out afterwards. Remember the children growing up without parents, the mothers who buried their children, the twisted bodies in the sandy streets and hate-filled mobs screaming for never-ending violence.

I’m remembering the purple forefingers of first-time voters and the girls with disfigured faces from acid attacks because they dared to go to school. Oh, don’t forget the aid workers, the ministers, and the brave ones who stand against tyranny from within in a million small ways.

Today is a day to remember them all. Make a bit of space for God today, make a bit of space to remember and to grieve and to pray. Our world could use a bit of peace making.

Maranatha” again.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Kyrie eleison again.

Christ, have mercy.

(An edited repost from the archives.)

Image source

Continue Reading · peace, USA · 7

In which redemptive violence is a myth for Syria

Peace is not merely a distant goal

I am not an isolationist. We belong to each other, of course, we do. The people of Syria are our people. This vicious civil war has been going on since spring 2011 and Syria’s children dying horrific deaths, her activists have been murdered, more than 100,000 of her people have been killed, some of them with the neuro-toxins of chemical warfare, and there are 2 million – million! – refugees.

Who could isolate themselves from such suffering? Who would turn away from such evil?

And yet I am absolutely against any military intervention in Syria.

Bombing Syria will not solve a single thing in this conflict and it will bear repercussions for decades. Precedent has been set by other conflicts, particularly in the Middle East, that bombings are not strategic and military intervention will not fix anything, particularly over the long term.

There are many logistical, political, reasonable, legal, and just-plain-common-sense reasons for our nations to avoid bombing or military action in Syria. (Check out questions 6 & 7 in this article at the Washington Post, 9 Questions About Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask)

But beyond the obvious and well-documented reasons and precedents to avoid military conflict in the Middle East again,  let me add this reminder:

Redemptive violence is a myth.

In the same way that I want to be a feminist in the way that I believe Jesus would be a feminist, I want to engage with world conflict in the way I believe Jesus would engage with world conflict. I believe that followers of Jesus should never be the ones calling out for war or bombings or violence of any kind. Violence is evil, and partaking in violence will never bring about real or lasting peace. Each side in this conflict believes they are in the right and it’s clear there is no “good guy” here. Violence continues and spirals and worsens and there is no redemption in sight. Why would we contribute to that evil in any way?

We sow the wind, as the prophet Hosea warned, and then we are surprised when we reap the whirlwind.

As followers of Jesus, we are meant to live the ways of our Saviour into every corner of our existence. In this instance, I support and engage with efforts advocating for immediate care of refugees, worldwide diplomatic pressure and dialogue, particularly with Syria’s neighbours and allies, and a strong commitment to the practice of non-violence. We should be the voices and hands of peace making in our world. Walter Wink calls this “the third way” – the action alternative from military intervention and isolationism.

Non-violence isn’t passive: it’s active and hard and real. It’s a discipline and it subverts violence with radical peace-making.

Disciples of Jesus are meant to live as ambassadors and signs of God’s shalom. Peace-making is not for the faint of heart and it is the prophetic call of the believer.

We must pursue the third way – not passive and yet not violent, this is the way of the peace maker.

Go on and write or call or email your government to make sure your voice is heard.

Go on and give money NGOs and ministries working to relieve suffering, particularly for refugees, and to end conflict within Syria.

Go on and become active in the refugee community of our city.

Go on and speak up in your community and take the side of peace making.

Go on and sign petitions or participate in peaceful protest.

Go on and educate yourself.

And go on and pray – with your voices, your spirits, your bodies – for peace.

 

Continue Reading · peace, politics, social justice · 28

In which faith comes by listening to the right story

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world. Matthew 5:14

In my research and work on Jesus Feminist, I found myself struggling to land the book – and my own self – in the hinterland between “Everything is getting better! Girl power forever!” and “It’s a cesspool of despair, we going to need way more sackcloth and ashes!” which so often permeates feminist discussions, particularly for people of faith. For every woman I found who had been empowered, there was a woman who had been terribly silenced. For every woman who had a beautiful and redemptive love story, there was a woman who had been terribly and horribly abused. For every “win” there is a “loss.” For every church that affirmed women in leadership, there was a church that did not. For every story of global women who rose up together to end war or deforestation or cultural evils, there were women who died broken, alone, and unmourned by the world due to civil war or systemic injustice and evil.

The temptation is to listen to only one perspective or the other. We choose sides, and often that “side” depends on the place from which we engage life.

The temptation is to say that our own narrow experience trumps all other evidence or the experiences of others.

The temptation, particularly for those of us who operate from a position of privilege, is to gravitate towards the good and ignore the very real and true cries of the oppressed and marginalized or even just-plain-different-from-us of our society, to retreat into the worlds of our own making and the brightly lit aisles of a shopping centre, and then point to the good stories as good enough for us. We seek our conveneicnce and comfort and safety. Surely these stories of abuse or injustice are anomalies, right?

Or the temptation is to gorge ourselves on sorrow and anger, to fill our hearts and minds only with the tales of hate and evil and horror, until we forget the beauty and peace and justice growing and rising like yeast among us. We keep our face towards the darkness, weeping or raging, and we miss the candles bravely flickering around us.

And then our temptation is to turn the other side into a straw man argument to blithely ignore or burn in effigy. Either way, we don’t have to listen to a straw man.  I don’t think that this is unique to women’s issues or to the Church or to the Internet: we do it in every corner of our life or with any issue.

Yet the word “right” or “wrong” isn’t the proper word for our human experience. Whether it’s a story I love or a story I hate, whether it’s a story that grieves me or a story that angers me, whether it’s a story that inspires me or a story that sickens me, whether it’s a story with a happy ending or an unresolved ending, I often don’t get to decide whether or not it’s right, it simply is what happened. It is the story. It is real. It is true. In our broken world, injustice is just as real as justice.

They are both true: the darkness and the light along with the reality that most of our lives reflect both. There is no either-or to real life.

I find comfort that in Scripture, we don’t see the typical Christian-bookstore version of redemption and justice with tidy bows and fairy tale endings. No, we see the mess of the truth of redemption and restoration. It’s all true. The beauty and the pain, the suffering and the overcoming, the defeat and the victory, Friday and Sunday and the life lived between, the Now of God’s Kingdom and the Not-Yet of that same Kingdom.

The hard work of peace making takes place in the tension between both stories. I want to be a better listener, a both-and listener, because I believe that listening is an underestimated expression of love. I don’t want to ignore my sisters who are happy and settled, who are empowered and strong and thriving. And I don’t want to ignore my sisters who are angry and hurting, who are disempowered and marginalized and yearning. We can learn from each other. This isn’t a story of one side “saving” another side or of one side “opening the eyes” of another.

The tensions of holding the word “Both” in my heart has changed my defintion of a “right” story – not only for women but for a lot of the tensions we see around us in the world today. All stories matter because all people matter.

Listening to both of their stories and holding them all gently with intention – and hopefully a bit of grace – has transformed me because it’s made me realise that the right story is always the real story, God’s overarching story that Love wins. Love has won, love is winning, and love will win. Hope does not disappoint. Faith comes by hearing or listening to the right story, it’s true: and the story that I look to for context for it all is the story of redemption and renewal, of restoration and hope that rests only in Christ.

To me, the right stories are in the Word of God – Jesus – as revealed by Scripture, by the community, and by the Holy Spirit – and He is a story of life and love and hope for us all, for all the Boths and the Ands and the Neithers and the Eithers. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.

Faith comes by listening to the right story | Sarah Bessey

The right story is the old, old story of heaven breaking through, of redemption arching, of justice rolling down, of deserts blooming flowers, of exiles planting gardens, of swords into ploughshares, of life instead of death.

The right story is the one to listen to because it’s the one that makes room for all of us, this is the story that holds all our stories with the promise of life and hope, joy and renewal.

I don’t want to be swallowed by the darkness. Nor do I want to be blinded by the light. No, I want to be part of a people who see the darkness, know it’s real, and then, then, then, light a candle anyway. And hold that candle up in the winds and pass along our light wherever it’s needed from our own homes to the halls of legislation to the church pulpit to the kitchens of the world. We’re a people who build bonfires outside on the shore and send up a few signals to light the way for the ships still coming across the water and the pioneers weary in the walking from the east. We set up tables in the wilderness and invite everyone to come, we’re the people who listen.

Faith comes by listening to the right story. It’s true. And the right story for me, the ones I turn towards when I’m tempted to choose one side or the other, is the Great Story that holds all of them as precious and worthy of love.

It’s the story that ends with these words: “And then all things were made right.”

 

* The title of this post was inspired by a portion of Michael Gungor’s amazing book, The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse.

Continue Reading · faith, Jesus Feminist, journey, peace, women · 11

In which an uneasy pacifist wears the poppy

poppy

My grandpa was a good-looking kid from the Canadian prairie when he marched away to war. He was shot on a hill in Italy during a pre-dawn raid. He fell in the cold, thick mud while it poured rain, everyone rushing past, a stampede. Bright red blood from his back thigh soaked into the thick fabric and the mud while he, unsure if he would live or die, was desperate with a fear more sharp than pain. A buddy of his pulled him to safety that day, carried him, slung over his back, gear and all, he ran them both straight down that hill.

He never talked about the war much. Oh, he sang old songs like “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! We’re going on a mighty mission” and joked about his wound, his buddies. But once, in uncharacteristic solemnity, he admitted that he’d never been so afraid in his life as he was that day on that hill, alone in the mud, surrounded by the sounds of his friends running and screaming and falling and dying in the dark.

“We were terrified,” he said. “We were just a bunch of kids.”

He came home. Many of his friends did not.

November 11 is Remembrance Day for Commonwealth nations. I have a plastic poppy pinned to my heavy fall coat. Since I was little-little, reciting In Flander’s Fields in school assemblies while holding paper cut-out poppies glued to green cardboard wreaths,I swore that I would always remember. My eldest daughter sang a song about peace in a school assembly yesterday, she asked me about war and soldiers, and I didn’t really know what to say but that it made me so sad.

N’oubliez pas.

War is complex, horrible, evil. As a Christian, I have felt lead to a path of peace-making but it’s an “uneasy pacifism” because I don’t know how it looks all the time, how best to live a consistent pro-life ethic with peace and love in a culture of violence, power and war. I know that pacifism is not total and absolute abhorrence of all violence – instead, to me, it’s a policy of non-aggression and active peace-making.

It’s living in the tension between my beautiful ideals and the ugly realities of the world, figuring out how to make-peace every day.

God, I’m so proud of him. I’m proud of my grandpa’s guts, of his bravery, his story. I’m proud of an entire generation’s commitment to a cause, proud of what they accomplished, proud of what they did in the face of fear and uncertainty.

I can’t bring myself to wear a pacifist’s white poppy. No, I need the blood-red one - baggage and uneasy pacifism, wonderings and tension, be damned.

This weekend, I remember my grandpa, I remember his friends, I remember my friends – and their husbands and wives, I remember every man and woman who has served in war-time. I remember the true cost and the reality of war. I listen to my daughter sing in her childish voice a song she can’t even fathom yet, and I will pass on the memories that I still carry of the look in his eye, that day he said: we were just kids. And I was so scared.

This is no day for nationalistic flag-waving nor idealistic condemnation. It’s a day for solemn remembrance, quiet knowing. One eye on the fields still covered with poppies, watered with blood and shit and mud, and on the wartorn homes of the world, for those that shall never grow old, the years never marking them.

May our veterans know how deeply I grieve with them, pray for them, love them, honour them. I fervently pray and speak and work for peace because I remember.

I will not break faith with them.

Lest we forget.

Continue Reading · canada, peace, war · 20