It’s usually around this point that I begin wondering why I chose to do a series of blog posts and this time is no exception. Chalk it up to my ADHD, but maintaining focus on a subject for more than a couple of posts can be difficult, to say the least. But, we’ve come this far, so let’s finish things up with Peace.
Once again, I’m sure you’re wondering how I can have a problem with the word “peace”. Especially as a progressive Christian. I mean, aren’t all progressives non-violent peacenik Jesus hippies? No, not really. Well, let’s say that I’m not a non-violent peacenik Jesus hippie; I want to be, but I’m not there yet because society isn’t there yet. But, I digress. Once again, my problem is not so much with “peace” as it is the way we talk about it.
Much the same way Christians have trivialized “joy”, they’ve reduced “peace” to a good feeling you get when you’re saved. We’re all way too familiar with this bumper sticker:
I don’t know about anyone else, but whenever I see it, I think “What utter bullshit”. Because, if you really know Jesus, peace shouldn’t be on the agenda.
Even Jesus’ own words back me up on this. In Matthew, he says
“Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. People’s enemies are members of their own households.“
Before you get your panties in a wad, understand that I’m not quoting this as a justification for doing violence. I read this passage as Jesus serving notice of his intention to upend a status quo that has no place in the beloved community to come((I have issues with imperial language like “Kingdom of God”)). Like all scripture, this passage needs context to be understood. That context tells us of time when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer; when violence wasn’t the answer, it was the question (the answer was “yes”); when women and children were second-class citizens at best and religion was a servant of power, not the people. Any of that sound familiar?
In case it doesn’t let me break it down for you: today, the gap between rich and poor is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. A study published earlier this year shows that “the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families((italics mine)), and that wealth is about 10 times as unequal as income”. While violent crime is on the decline in this country, in the last 4-5 months, we have once again been forced to confront the fact that young black men face far greater risk of state-sponsored violence than their white counterparts. There are politicians working overtime to undermine the rights that women have fought so hard to get and seem to be hellbent on removing the social safety net that protects children and ensures that every child, regardless of family wealth or social standing, has adequate nutrition and a good education. And, all too often, the Church is complicit in these acts. So, if you call yourself a Christian and feel at peace, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.
Of the four words associated with Advent (hope, joy, peace and love), peace is the one I struggle with the most. Really, it was the inspiration for this series. Why is it included here? How are we supposed to feel peace when we live in a world that delights in shitting on people? What do I have to do to feel this peace? ((FYI, if anyone comments that all I have to do is accept Jesus as my personal Lord and savior, I will not react as a nonviolent, peacenik Jesus hippie)) The truth is, like so much of the Christian faith, Advent leaves me with more questions than answers. Which is the real reason I’m not really a fan.