“The real violence starts in the way we speak about people, make assumptions about them, and decide that they are not like us...As long as people keep buying into these words, it will not take much more for them to buy into the action that has to follow.” (Henri Nouwen in ‘The Road To Peace’)
Symbols of power are not always related to the size of our home, the title on our office door or amount in our bank account. The symbols of achievement are defined by each person. Therefore, one’s place in the public arena can be just as much a symbol of power. How many people who listen to our words, articles we’ve published or those who read our blogs and tweets can all define power for us. It may well be we are on the verge of proving the pen is mightier than the sword but is it a good thing?
I have tried very hard to stay out of the fray of political banter on the blogs and Facebook. I have friends enough who run the full spectrum of political ideals. Many of them I know to be Christians. In my position as a clergy, I do not have the luxury of expressing my political leanings. As I have stated elsewhere, I make my voice heard at the ballot box. But I do have a few words on the state of things.
We are doing a disservice to one another across our nation and in our churches by the words being spoken. The accusations heard in our media are a rhetoric of condemnation of our fellow country women and men. In many cases we are throwing not the stranger or neighbor but the very family of God under the bus for the sake of our political ideals!
Churches speak of changed hearts. We claim mission statements of loving God and loving neighbor on our cool, hip websites. We pray for revival in our land. But I ask for what end? Is it so all come to know the love of God or so all come to agree with our view of the American Dream?
In the early days of the church, a brother asked Abba Sisoes: “I long to guard my heart.” The old man said to him: “And how can we guard the heart if our tongue leaves the door of the fortress open?”
You may disagree but I do not think it is a stretch to say that we often find politicians and pundits as influential as pastors in the lives of today’s version of Christians. Is Jesus?
(8)"All of you praise me with your words, but you never really think about me. (9) It is useless for you to worship me, when you teach rules made up by humans." (10) Jesus called the crowd together and said, "Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. (11) The food that you put into your mouth doesn't make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean." (Matthew 15:8-11 CEV)
Jesus was obviously speaking about the Pharisees. But just who are the Pharisees of our day? Who are the one's influencing and adding to the Law of Love? Who are those in our day who are saying it is okay to demonize another because of a political view? This is the evil, the demon we face today. Not in others but our selves.
This journey of violence in words is my own journey too. I have felt it and struggled with my own assumptions about people. I have seen the results in both my actions and other people. I’m trying to speak the words about myself before I speak them of others to see how they taste. If it tastes like vomit then I try not to share it. But Jesus intended no gap between the spiritual world and ordinary life. The Church doesn’t need to add to the violence. We are called to something more – peace.