Violence and The Radical Welcome Of The Church

There is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill that goes, “The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative.” While it can’t be verified that he actually said that, it is a pretty good summation of how Americans handle difficult issues. Or, it used to be. These days we seem to be incapable of doing the doing the right thing even after we exhaust every other alternative; Congress’ inaction after the Newtown shooting shows that, if nothing else. Once again, we are confronted with the opportunity to do the right thing in the wake of a horrendous action. Will this be the time we finally do that “right thing” or will this be a repeat of Newtown and we won’t do jackshit?

For the time being, I’m not going to talk about racism, gun control or mental illness, partly because I don’t have enough information to do so intelligently (in other words, the opposite of what our illustirous news media is doing) and partly because I don’t have the fucking words. There are a lot of things flying around in my head right now and I need some time to pull these thoughts together into some coherent whole before I write about them. That probably means I’ll miss the blogging boat yet again, but so be it. I’d rather be a day late than sound like an asshole.

That said, in the wake of Wednesday’s night shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, I read two articles that discussed individual safety in the church. One, from Media Matters, was a clip from Fox and Friends in which many, many stupid things were said. As I told you in the previous paragraph, I’m not going to talk about that bullshit because I’m just not in a place where I can do so with any integrity and responsibility. But, there was one idea put forth that I am going to address: a pastor they were interviewing said that men in the church should arm themselves to protect the women and children. Yes, beloved, you read that right: followers of a man called the Prince of Peace and who preached turning the other cheek should be prepared to do violence in a place dedicated to his worship. That is quite possibly the most fucked up idea I’ve heard in a long, long time.

The second was a blog post from author/editor/speaker/musician and spoken word artist Christian Piatt about reconciling the safety of congregations and the radical welcome of the church. It is one of the more thoughtful pieces I’ve read about this tragedy and I am thankful for Christian’s words. As I read, I began to wonder if individual safety is in the cards for Christians. Think about it for a minute: members of the early church were persecuted for merely practicing their faith and I can’t remember Jesus ever saying that we would, or even should, be safe while following him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t take steps to make churches safe spaces, but after perusing these two very divergent articles, I have to ask if packing heat in church really the way to go?

There are a lot of things we could do, or should do. And, there are things we shouldn’t do (unfortunately, these aren’t things we couldn’t do). But, which of these is the “right” thing? I don’t really know right now. But, whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t involve violence or counter the radical welcome that Christ called his church to extend.