Tuesday, 15 August 2017

In the wake of Charlottesville

Seeing images of religious leaders, arm-in-arm, wearing liturgical stoles, facing off armed warriors. I question whether I have their courage, for I know what they are doing is turning their cheeks to receive the blows aimed at the marginalized. What we are witnessing is the non-violent absorbing of the hate and violence of others. Jesus Christ did it. Look where it got him!

Such violence arises from fear - fear of others - fear of those who are "not like us". Violence surfaces when people feel threatened or unsafe. Non-violence becomes a more difficult choice. Non-violence comes with the faith that in a broken and hurting world, redemption does not come by overpowering others, but by reconciliation and peace-making. Such faith comes at a cost. The cost of faith may lead to death.

Heather Heyer was martyred in the name of peace. Her final articulation to the world was in a Tweet that said, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I am outraged by her death and the manner of her execution, mown down by a man whose justification for murder was "fear of the other". What did he fear from Heather? Peace?

Peace becomes something to be feared when it costs us our privilege. Do I have to give up something for peace and justice? How much of my life is built on a foundation of injustice? Are my clothes made of slave-labour? Does my medical treatment rely on contaminating an indigenous water supply with toxic waste? Are my children to be educated at the expense of making teacher assistants available to children with learning disabilities?

I see images of 'white supremacists' and wonder why there is so little outrage in my local community. Locally, we are busy with discussing who should or shouldn't marry. We are disinterested in someone else's 'race-problem'. We do not perceive that we have a race-problem ourselves.

I live in a land that has a history of racism. I live where we talk about a Stolen Generation, not recognising that interventionist strategies are making multiple stolen generations a reality, not just for today, but into the future. I live in a land where a Deputy Prime Minister can be mistakenly a citizen of another land and legitimate refugees are kept out-of-sight by our own Authorities on foreign soil. I see our aid budget used to sway politics and our valuing of Humanity diminished.

Surely, we cannot be participants in racist lynchings and hate-crimes? Then I see images of people standing by and saying "there is nothing I can do"... much like people have in times gone by. JEsus Christ did not say "there is nothing I can do". Jesus Christ asked that the cup of responsibility be taken away from him. Then he added, "but not my will - but yours" - and became obedient unto death.

Followers of Jesus Christ are called on to take up their cross and stand with the oppressed, marginalised and hated. Like Heather Heyer and the courageous religious leaders in Charlottesville, our outrage must not be expressed in violence, but in actions that absorb and disarm. We must stand in front of the most vulnerable with the crucified Christ, having faith in the promise of resurrection and Heaven.


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