I thought this week’s meditation would be about the Central Atlantic Conference meeting scheduled for this weekend. What is the CAC? How is Greenbelt Community Church connected to the CAC? What will be the themes of this year’s Annual Meeting?
And then war erupted in Israel and the Gaza Strip. I would like to say that I have all the answers. I would even like to say that this is just a routine disagreement, similar to other incidents over the years. And although there are definitely issues on each side of this long-standing situation, this is terrorism, and we need to face that.
Each of us is going to have to do the hard work of reflection. Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian who wrote during the Second World War observed: “There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war.” Reinhold Niebuhr (1967). “Love and justice: selections from the shorter writings of Reinhold Niebuhr. The brutality of this attack places us in one of those inflection points of history.
We also need to be honest about rhetoric violence and its product of physical violence. Rhetoric violence has been part of the language of the Palestinian/Israel debate for decades. Rhetoric violence is rampant in our own country. Rhetoric violence is how we use words to dehumanize others. The cruelty is the point, because the point is to make other human beings no more significant than an ant we step on. Rhetoric violence gives us permission to do atrocities most of us would never imagine.
Sadly, far too much of this rhetoric violence is sanctioned by the extremes of religion. We lose sight of the goodness of God in and around and within each human. There is a tendency to reduce the world to two polar opposites and then to demonize those that are different.
Reinhold Niebuhr forced us to face evil in our world and the consequences of ignoring evil. He also is the author of a well-known prayer. Perhaps in this troubled time, we need his prayer:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
― Reinhold Niebuhr