Saturday, January 8, 2011

Violence in a New Year

With many of you, I'm watching CNN this morning with deep concern for the armed assault on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her staff.  Obviously, there are conflicting reports on who's been killed, how many wounded.  But this much is already clear: once again, violence has ripped at the heart of American politics.  And lives have been lost and forever changed.

I know about as much about Congresswoman Giffords as you do - that she seemed tireless, idealistic, committed to renewable energy and immigration reform.  We don't know what kind of mania, what kind of anger motivated the attack on her life.  Whatever it was, this gruesome act - in a Safeway, of all places - again reveals the meanspirited face of politics in 2011.  That, and the insanity of arming our neighbors to the teeth.

There's more violence, of course, all over the nation and all over the world.  Israel.  Palestine.  Algeria.  And on New Year's Day, a troubling conflict - between Christians and Muslims in Egypt - erupted in the terrible suicide bombing of a Coptic Christian Church in Alexandria.  Wise Muslim and Christian leaders alike have condemned that bombing; and all of us are responsible for forging a much better, wiser relationship between peoples of faith.

Can we agree that we all play a role in whatever happens next?

If there's to be civil society and democratic conversation and big-hearted problem-solving, we'll have to knit a more respectful politics.  In particular, those with widely divergent points of view HAVE TO TAKE RISKS in sitting down for respectful conversation.  What does that mean for me?  Who are the folks I have most trouble understanding, liking, respecting?  How do those kinds of bridges get built and maintained?  And crossed?

As far as faith goes, and discipleship, this is it.  Jesus insisted his disciples cross troubled waters to connect with the misunderstood, the unwanted, even the meanspirited.  Whatever else I do, I make new my commitment to my own community of faith and to pushing us to reach out, risk conversation, find common ground.  Violence like the violence we grieve this morning is so often rooted in cowardice and fear.  Only love heals cowardice and fear.  Love and trust and respect.