Friday, July 22, 2016

Seeking Peace in a Violent World

I didn't watch very much of the Republican National Convention this week.  I was already somehow both emotionally numb and emotionally raw from the shootings of black men by police and the shootings of police, as well as the news of terrorist attacks in Europe, etc. etc. etc. (As I write this, news is breaking of yet another terrorist attack in western Europe.)  I didn't have the stomach for the speeches spewing fear and at times hate at the RNC.  

I wish I could say that I thought things would be much better at the Democratic National Convention next week, but I think there will be plenty of fear talk there too.  There may be a difference in kind and/or extreme--I'm not trying to create a false equivalency, my own personal beliefs say there are real differences--but let's face it, fear works in American politics, so does demonizing your enemy and so do promises of security.  Both parties peddle the stuff; neither can be absolved from appealing to our society's worst instincts.

I've been thinking dark thoughts this week.  

This week I reached a new level of realization regarding the fact that the white privilege I enjoy will not protect my sons from the effects of systemic racism in my culture.  Within my family, my sons are just Julian and Jameson and I forget the color of my son's skin is different from mine, but outside our family the culture will not let me forget.  When asked I've always explained that my adopted sons are bi-racial (African American and Caucasian), but I've realized maybe that's wasted breath, because the world will see them as black and treat them accordingly.

I've felt weary lately thinking about the world my sons will inherit.  Not only does racism burden my thoughts, but also the violent nature of our current politics, our indifference to climate change, economic inequality, sexism, homophobia/transphobia, etc. etc. etc.

I'm telling you I've had dark thoughts this week.  

I haven't been much fun to be around.  I've had to apologize to a few folks to whom I've sent an e-mail reply too quickly without thinking through my words or to whom I've posted a particularly uncharitable comment on social media.  Instant communication is not my friend when I'm thinking this way.  Clearly I need to go back to handwriting snail mail.  By the time the letter is finished, I will have cooled down and can throw it away.

Like I said, dark thoughts.

I suppose these thoughts about the world around me relate to how I'm thinking about the world within me.  My fears for my sons have a lot to do with my own feelings of inadequacy re: being a white man trying to prepare my black sons for the world.  For that matter, my fears about the world, have a lot to do with my fears about how I'm doing as a parent in general.  I knew parenting would be difficult, but I never thought it would be this hard.  My discouragement about the violence in our world and in our politics has a lot to do with my fears about my own faith journey. Do my own faith practices actually reveal that I'm following Jesus or am I just another consumer of shallow religion that offers no real benefit to the world?  For that matter, in my role as a minister, which kind of religion am I really offering?

Dark thoughts.  Fearful thoughts.  (I'm pretty sure there's something in the Bible about  "there is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear."Hmmm. . . maybe I should look that up.)

I've been looking for inner peace this week just as I've been searching for outer peace in our world.  The thing is, of course, it's pretty hard to see anything but turmoil in the world when there is turmoil inside oneself.  There is always beauty, always hope, always joy to be found if one has enough inner peace to see them--even in the midst of a violent world.  

I'm not there yet this week, but I thought I'd share a few things that helped me, both of which are worth listening to.
  1. The first was this week's episode of "Into the Mystic" by UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer.  It's titled "Peace on Earth" and in it he uses the chaos happening at the RNC just outside the national UCC offices in Cleveland as a stepping off point to talk about the need for people in the world who are instruments of God's peace.  You can listen to it on the UCC web site or on ITunes.  I subscribe to the podcast and I'm always glad I listen to it each week.  It's five minutes in length usually, but it makes a difference in me.
  2. The second was an interview with Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize winner Thick Nat Hanh on the public radio program "On Being."  The monk talks about the difference one makes in the world in terms of peace when one is at peace inside.  We either cause suffering or ease suffering depending on our inner state.  The program also has interviews with people who have been helped by his teachings, including a police officer who uses his wisdom in her training of fellow officers.
I'm not sure how you filter the onslaught of daily news of violence in our world or how you find peace inside yourself, but I'm interested in hearing about it.  

God knows I can always use the help.

Grace and Peace,


P.S. In recent sermons I have shared about presentations on white privilege I have heard which are given by the UCC General Minister and President John Dorhauer.  You can listen to one I attended in Charleston, SC on the anniversary of the killings at Emanuel A.M.E. Church.  It is well worth listening to and he offers one of the best explanations of white privilege I have ever heard.  He does so by beginning with his own experience of being taught racism in his own family.  

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