Monday, December 17, 2012

What Can We Do In the Wake of Newtown? Advent-ing Cries for Change...

The horrific events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary this past Friday are not the first, nor will they be the last, attestations to a world torn by violence. The real temptation is to grow weary and lose hope when every day we read stories about heinous crimes against humanity, abduction of child soldiers, manifestations of genocide, and the all-too-common shootings that are taking place in our public schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, and even churches. We are especially aghast when the victims are young children and defenseless kindergartners who had a whole future ahead of them.

As I have previously mentioned, my initial reaction to any realization of suffering and injustice is to cry out, How long, O Lord? Even so, come Lord Jesus. My first response is to demand that God would act, that God would intervene, that God would also say enough. Much like the Psalmist whose tears drench his couch (Psalm 6:6-7), the widowed prophet Anna who fasts and prays in anticipation (Luke 2), and bereaved Rachel because of massacred children in Ramah, I also expect God to bring a new day (Matthew 2:18).

Advent is a liturgical reminder that we are a people in waiting for the world to be made new and right. Yet we wait not on our hands. Our Advent-ing is active. We have a living hope (1 Pt 1:3) that must be embodied, pursued, and lived into for the sake of our neighbors near and far. We inaugurate our future hopes in the present, the hear and now.

That said, my other response to suffering at the hands of the violent is to remember our call as the church. Advent awakens our memory to be peace-makers, hope-givers, dream-sharers, burden-carriers, and soul-tenders.

This begs the question- how? What can we do in the face of such atrocities as what took place on Friday? How can we live out our identity as Jesus' disciples within a world yet to be healed of senseless violence? How can we live into the peaceable kingdom of God in the midst of a society bent on aggression and assault?

Pray. We often undervalue and lose sight of the reality that our prayers do matter. I am not sure how. I am not sure why some prayers seem to be met with circumstantial and social change and others seem as though they have fallen on def ears, but I keep praying...I hope you will, too. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Look in the Mirror: We all need to consider how we perpetuate cycles and patterns of violence. Our language, sources of entertainment, video games, movies, music, and manners in which we deal with personal conflict also deeply matter. It can even be said that the purchases and investments we make sometimes sustain industries and promote cultural narratives that feed on violence and weapons wielded in war. So we must take a look and ponder our own contributions to a violent world and choose instead to speak life. We must take a look at our laws. We must be willing to change, "These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change." (President Barack Obama, 12/17/12)

Listen and Learn: Ignorance is not bliss. Instead, learn about how violence is crippling individuals and communities locally and globally. Make space to listen to the stories of victims of violence. Celebrate the heroes and sheroes who have worked towards past and present change without resorting to violence. Allow yourself to develop a prophetic imagination that sees beyond the myths of redemptive violence that only breed more violence.

Speak Up and Advocate: Stand on the side of those victimized by violence and work towards social policies that help alleviate violence. Research gun control laws, anti-bullying campaigns, peacemaking organizations, and justice programs. Even more practically, befriend those often pushed to the margins of your school, place of work, neighborhood, and city. When you have a hunch that something is not right and the seeds of violence are being planted- speak up and work with those who can move towards possible prevention.

Create Opportunities to Partner: Rally together with others who share a passion for peacemaking and organize together for the purpose of educating others about and supporting victims of violence. Partner with organizations that share your convictions and work towards wholistic change.

Dare to Hope: One of the most subversive disciplines of Christian life is that we hope in a God whose promise is for the whole world to be made new and right. We have a hope and confidence that the Way of Jesus- a way of non-violence and peace, of justice and compassion, and the beginnings of a world where tears and sorrow are no more- will win out in the end. This is a hope that we live into just as much as we hold onto it, especially at Advent. This is a hope we proclaim, especially in the aftermath of gross tragedies.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;where there is injury, pardon;where there is doubt, faith;where there is despair, hope;where there is darkness, light;and where there is sadness, joy.O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekto be consoled as to console;to be understood as to understand;to be loved as to love.For it is in giving that we receive;it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
---St. Francis of Assisi

[1] Silver Surfer comic above found in Walter Winks, Engaging the Powers (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, p. 230).

[2] I do not usually post videos of politicians. I tend to try to stay out of the public support/condemnation of partisan issues, but this video of Joe Scarborough (R) from Morning Joe bears witness to political and personal change needed for these tragedies to end. So while I may typically vote ____, I am grateful for his a-partisan voice here.