About Me

My photo
Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

Popular Posts

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rachel Weeping

Another day, another massacre.  This is where we have arrived.  Psychologists have studied the pattern by which people become desensitized to violence.  Although there are plenty of arguments about what such desensitization might mean for future human actions, there seems to be an agreement that exposure to acts of violence over time has the effect of reducing emotional responses, sensitivity, to subsequent exposure to violent acts.

Once, television viewers had little experience of the grotesque images of death in war.  Then reporters from Vietnam began to dispatch film of the horrors of that war.  Eventually, the dinnertime news viewing included a daily dose of explosions and war.  Now, the instantaneous images of weapons, explosions, dismemberment, and death, are round-the-clock backdrops for ads to shop at Target or take Cialis, but avoid four-hour erections.

The regularity of mass shootings in the US is making them blend into the background.  I sadly admit that I read the headline about Newtown, CT, on my screen, clicked to get a few details, and went back to whatever I was doing.  It was barely a blip on my daily rounds.  The facts of a young man killing his own mother and also killing kindergartners, continued to work on me, so I can say with some relief that I am not utterly desensitized.

What became obvious to me, as I seek to be formed by the Christian calendar and live these days in the Season of Advent, was that church people would need to turn to Matthew's text on the slaughter of the innocents.
A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more (NRSV).
I was not alone in this judgment, and various fellow-travelers began to write about these words.  I was even blessed to hear a sermon on this text on Sunday morning.  I posted on facebook that I was glad not to have to preach today because of the danger of sounding smug:  Christians sometimes sound like they can pretend bad stuff is not so bad since they know how everything is going to turn out in the end.  But that is a little bit of a cop-out.  Lots of other preachers had to step into the pulpit whether they felt ready, capable, or not.

I think what speaks most loudly to the church in this moment is that the so-called best country in the world is no less marked by the radicality of evil than was the land of God's chosen people twenty centuries ago.  In Bethlehem's case, it was a powerful ruler exercising ruthless power to try to cut off any challenges to his dynasty, even if it meant killing babies.  In Newtown, we only can begin to imagine the tortured mind of a killer who plans and executes the murder of little children.

In both cases, we find ourselves living in a world armed and capable of massive, unexpected, unspeakable violence.  Someone within reach of all of us could carry it out, whether it be under orders in an electronically furnished bunker controlling unmanned Predator drones, or it be an unknown, largely unnoticed average guy picking up a gun here, some bullets there, planning, plotting, stirring up the impulse borne of rage, recklessness, anomie, or whatever drives such methodical, industrial, technical, prolific, cold, steely murder.

In everyday places--theaters, malls, classrooms, sidewalks, office towers--unspeakable violence can and does erupt.  In Nigeria and Pakistan it can happen in church, or on a train.  In Iraq it may be in a mosque or in a crowd on pilgrimage.  In Gaza and Israel it's on a bus or in the workplace.  In Wazyristan it's at a wedding.  In Afghanistan its among a group of girls learning to read.  In Congo it's in a village that got in the way of a war.  In all these places, even in our own hometowns, evil organizes, buys and sells its wares, seduces and steals hearts, corrupts intellect, breeds violence.

Rachel weeps and continues weeping for her children.  On that day long ago, Mary escaped with the little one, Jesus, and fled to another country where he continued his childhood as an undocumented immigrant, a refugee, a boy on the run.  So many other mothers were not so fortunate.  They were not consoled, because their babies were no more.  They would not see them play again.  They would not get to feed them again.  They would not see them grow, make them new clothes when they outgrew the old ones.  They had left only a long emptiness.

The kind of love that endures, relives, cherishes the moments, longs for one more shared embrace, is itself a sign of the depth of love we might find in God.  The mothers who weep in Gaza and Israel, in Columbine and Newtown, are themselves the image of a God who weeps.

It's not a day to say something sweet and neat about God's ultimate victory.  The boy in Bethlehem whose parents helped him flee infanticide, as a grown man eventually had to run away to Galilee after the next king in the dynasty beheaded his cousin and was looking for him.  The mother who was blessed to see her son live to adulthood had to witness his murder at the hands of another ruler from another land.  Rachel is weeping and is not consoled.  It is not the will of God that any should perish.  Today we try not to sink into the abyss by gingerly letting our feet and our tears fall on the breadth of God's sorrow at the way humanity dispatches our brothers and sisters without regret.  Today we hope against hope that such a God may one day deliver us.

No comments:

Baptist Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf
Christian Peace Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf