Life in Christ: the Witness of Peace

A day like this

It’s a beautiful day here. The sky is a mild blue, with streaks of white cloud afloat. The breeze comes and goes; the air temperature is mild. The rain yesterday left everything as bright green as an emerald. The garden, after its heartbreaking start in destruction, is recovering. We have baby tomatoes and tiny, ruby-like radishes. The raspberries are hanging heavy on the wild canes; I will be hanging the wash out and then picking some for dessert tonight.

It’s a quiet, bucolic life. I can see the goats outside the window, resting in the grass, enjoying the wind. Nicholas was out early to get their tethers set, and they were incredibly cooperative today in going where they were wanted.

It’s hard to believe that so many families, in a  country much like this, are grieving. And it’s not the proper grieving of those seeing off an elderly friend who lived a good and purposeful life. It is the soul-mutilating, life-changing grief of families who have lost children. So many of them, too. All at once, in a nightmare out of a horror film one would not want their children to see on the screen.

First, those who killed and injured in an explosion at the heart of the government, in Oslo, Norway. I think of the many times, when I lived in Washington, DC, that I walked into my own office building, a block from the White House, a building that housed government offices, too. My roommates worked as interns in various agencies and congressional liaisons. We think of terrorists and violent anarchists targeting the White House, or the Pentagon, or Congress. But there are literally hundreds of agencies and support offices tucked into privately owned buildings, where other people work who have nothing to do with the government. So many US government employees are really just clerks, secretaries, office managers, who have nothing to do with policy. Those were the people targeted by bombs in Oslo. People just like us, going to work, stopping for a cup of coffee, planning their weekends.

As frightening and horrifying as the bombings were, what happened next was unimaginable.

My husband, when he was a parish priest, was a big supporter and fundraiser for our nearby church camp. We all sent children from our parishes there for a week of fun and Christian fellowship. My own children had attended Scout camps in the States, always a week of relaxation and silly pranks, and learning. Nicholas’s children went as campers, and the middle child was a counselor for several summers. We all spent time there, chaperoning or teaching or leading worship. And I think of our children – Roland, Alex, David, Matthew, Kaitlin -as if they had been caught in a nightmare scenario there in the quiet woods of New Brunswick, as happened on a peaceful island outside Oslo. I think of all the other children and young adults who might have been there – Brittany, Claire, James, Nick, Zach, Kendra, Andrew, and many, many others. Because you must realize – all these young  people knew each other. They were friends, siblings, cousins. Their parents knew each other. They went to the same schools and churches.  I will not tell you to imagine what it would be like to lose them all at once. You probably already have today. I can empathize with the pastors, teachers and police who now are helping the families and communities of those lost.

I am not going to lamely excuse this terrible tragedy as “the senseless action of one deranged man.” He may have a serious mental illness that went unrecognized, or he may have hidden it well from those who know him. But those who will rouse both the unbalanced and the sane to hatred of others, who will manipulate with lies and exaggerations to enhance their own power and cravings for control, and those who capitalize on fear and xenophobia for a profit, bear the brunt of responsibility for this outrageous act. Those who call themselves Christians while spewing vituperative words and encouraging violence need to cower in dread when they think of the Great Day, the Dread Day, when the Lord will call them to stand before Him. They had best repent now and change their ways and work for God’s peace, not against it. The blood is on their hands, as well.

As it is on politicians who promote war and violence, who take campaign money and gifts from the gun lobby and the “defense industry”, which would be better termed “war factories.” No Christian should hold a weapon to use it against another human being. Each person is an image of the Creator; to harm that person is to desecrate the One who made the person, and who made the assailant, as well. To sin by violence is to destroy the Divine, both in the victim and in the perpetrator.

“All who take the sword will die by the sword.” Jesus, the Christ who went to His own violent death meekly and abhorring violence, calls for the witness of peace.  All Christians, everywhere, need to put down their swords. We need to stop letting “defense” and the right of might be excuses for death. There is no just war. In every war, the innocent die. People going about their business, shopping for groceries, cooking a meal, repairing a fence, looking for a lost sheep, walking to school, hurrying home from work, die because of politics. Bombs. Guns. They don’t change politics; they kill people.

Cut armaments out of national budgets. Stop making weapons to kill people.  Don’t glorify violence in literature, on television, in films and in video games.

Study war no more.