Not so fast. Dr. Dwight McKissic offered a sermon focused on how to help young black men in his congregation think through their own choices in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. What Jesus informed options should those faced with similar circumstances consider. He sent all or part of that sermon to Dave Miller, who has his hands full herding the commenting cats over there, at SBC Voices to be posted on what is a popular Southern Baptist group blog that also aggregates feeds from other Southern Baptists. Currently the feed is a Twitter feed since Google shut the lights on Google Reader.
The comments are diverse. You would imagine so with Baptist types. But, what is a bit startling is the manner of the disagreement, the tone of the comments. It could hardly be concluded that a violent incident spurs religious unity. I confess to thinking that were I Dwight, I might reconsider sending Dave another item to post.
My thoughts are not to convey everyone would or should agree with Dr. McKissic, though I do. Instead, it is that if the deep divide that exists over our racial history is to ever be bridged, our conversations must be better. What if an event like the violent death of a 17-year-old black man led us not to draw attention to black on black violence but to talk about violence and race. To always point to what happens on the streets of Chicago seems to be obfuscation.
For the past two years I have participated in a partnership in Guatemala. The group travels twice a year to teach local pastors in what they refer to as seminary. If the schedule holds I will travel twice next year.
Guatemala has a violent history. I recall a This American Life episode on NPR that included gruesome details. Many places in Latin America experience violence as a staple. What to do?
I discovered a piece on the AULA blog. It is the inspiration for the title. The piece I read, Moving Toward Religious Unity In Response to Violence, prompted me to consider if the points made in the piece could inspire religious unity in the United States if we made the same discoveries about ourselves. Or, if we wold assume a superior cultural posture by pointing toward our more peaceful existence when making relative comparisons.
Here are a few of the points that stirred me to think about the way Christian groups, in particular my tribe, may learn from others how we might seek unity in the face of violence.
1. Violence requires an understanding of context. While violence is common to several Latin American countries their contexts require a solid look beyond the common crimes.
Violence in Chicago, deemed black on black, may be prompted by a number of factors. If the issue of race is present then it is a very different outlet than other instances where violence erupts between those of differing ethnic background.
2. The common experience is drawing people together from different countries, those with different strategies, and ministries involved in care after the events of violence.
There is no silver bullet to ending violence or racial reconciliation. I am not ignoring the activity of God or the agency of the Spirit. What I am pointing up is that those responsible for reconciliation, embodying and enacting, will find the work hard even if it may be supported and funded by the event of God.
3. Violence takes new forms as others are challenged.
Particularly I have in mind racial violence. There may be no more white hooded posses hanging black people from trees, it is still a violent act to support a system that continues, as Dr. Moore noted, to display apparent racial bias.
4. Churches offer conflicting messages about peace.
Some view peace the result of a redeemed individual. Others find it necessary to address systems and structures. Often the two compete for attention, support, and funding. These conflicts present a fractured vision for peace. Both elements seem true but should fit within a desire for peace so that either side of this divide may join forces to end violence, especially in this context where I am aiming at racial reconciliation.
5. Ecclesial competition is undermined.
Christians of every background working together in the face of racial division sets our agenda on something other than self-preservation. Maybe churches, like individuals, need to put to death the habits and practices that support the self and in those places plead for resurrection living.
What do you think?