Every so often, I’ll hear a word that strikes a chord with me and shalom is one of those words. Most folks think of it as how Jewish folks say good-bye, but it’s more than that . Google it and you’ll that shalom means peace. But, it’s more than that, because shalom is a Hebrew word and Hebrew words go beyond a single meaning. They convey feeling and emotion. You see, shalom can mean completeness, wholeness, health, peace, harmony and the absence of discord or agitation. My favorite definition of shalom comes from theologian and scholar Walter Brueggemann, who describes shalom as the central vision of the Bible in which “all of creation is one, every creature is in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.” I ran across this definition in Diana Butler Bass’ Christianity for the rest of us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith, which I read a last year. It’s a good book and I highly recommend it.
Most Christians love to talk about things like community and harmony. And, really, we do strive for these things…, until our brothers and sisters say things we don’t care for. In my case, Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, is a perfect example. A while back, Phillips wrote about passing a Methodist church that had a sign out front which said “Pass the DREAM Act” and he had some pretty ugly things to say about it. In the first line of an article he wrote for his blog, Phillips said “I have a DREAM. That is, no more United Methodist Church”. He followed up by saying that he grew up in the Methodist Church, but left as a teen “because the Methodist Church is little more than the first Church of Karl Marx”. Those are strong words and he went to list his problems with the UMC, stating
“The Methodist church is pro-illegal immigration. They have been in the bag for socialist health care, going as far as sending out emails to their membership “debunking” the myths of Obamacare. Say, where are the liberal complaints on the separation of church and state? In short, if you hate America, you have a great future in the Methodist church.
In just a few sentences, Phillips managed to attack a lot of things I believe in. He’s not alone; at various times, plenty of others done the same thing. In just the last year, I’ve heard preachers advocate violence against the LGBT community, seen laws passed that disenfranchise and discriminate against people and I’ve had my intelligence insulted because I found fault with all this. I swear, just when I think people can’t any crazier, someone finds a way. The thing is these people, as aggravating and irritating as they as they may be, are some of the people with whom I am supposed to live in community and harmony. I realize no one said it would be easy, but does it really have to be this hard?
Christians of all inclinations can be aggravating and irritating, while some go beyond that into the realm of absolute douchebaggery. Because of that, Brueggemann’s vision of community and harmony with everyone working for the joy and well-being of each other can be difficult to see. Often, it seems damn near impossible. When it is, I go at it the way I do on that last bit of a long run: I quit looking toward the finish line and concentrate on the next few steps. I can usually make 10 more steps and after that, 10 more. And, after that…, well, you get the picture.