This Christmas : Hoping For Peace
December 20, 2014
This Christmas, I've been thinking a lot about violence.
Which is, like, weird. I know. It’s weird. Probably when a normal person reflects on the Christmas season, they aren’t like, “Violence.” But here I am.
At the start of the Advent season, I went to church. It was the first week of Advent, so the theme was Hope. Kristy described Advent as a time of waiting in the dark, which was both unexpected and apt, and then she asked us what we were hoping for.
As you wait in the dark, what are you hoping for?
And I thought about violence.
I’m feeling a visceral reaction nowadays towards violence nowadays. I don’t use the word “abhor” lightly, but the fact is that I have started to abhor violence. I just can’t justify it. Not in anybody’s case, and not for any reason.
I think about God, the nature of God, and the act of coming to earth to be with us. Then I think about the nature of violence. How loud it is. How it demands to be heard, while not hearing from anybody else. How it reduces a person, subtracts their humanity, reduces them into just physical dimensions and statistics. How it shames. How it controls. What it takes from us, and how we can’t get it back.
I have come to regard violence as acutely evil. There can be no other words for it. This thing we have so heavily come to rely on, the bastard child of hatred and commerce – and above all, a need to control others.
And yet, violence is glorified by almost every society on the earth. It is seen as a reasonable solution to conflict. By adults. By adults who run countries.
We give our children soldiers, guns and other miniature war toys to play with. Our history books predominantly discuss war. It is seen as the focal point around which humans have revolved. Male conquerors are described as heroes, both in historical accounts and in movies, in tv shows, and in books. We idolize weapons of violence. We worry about boys who are peaceful, who do not wish to fight. We call them sissy, too feminine. As if desiring peace was a distinctly female, and thus unappealing attribute.
I read this the other day, and it haunted me : “If we were to purposely design a culture with the goal of producing violent people, we would create it exactly like the culture in which most modern boys grow up.”
I deeply regret many things that violence has done and is continuing to do. I deeply regret its presence in Ferguson and other cities in America. I deeply regret how it is used by the police, especially in light of recent events. I deeply regret how it was used by angry protestors. I think of my friend and her five adopted kids, and I deeply regret the fear that violence has placed in the hearts of parents of African-American children. I deeply regret the violent words and acts that the Church has committed against the homosexual community. I deeply regret violence against women, not just in my country, but in every single country around the world. I deeply regret how that violence has led to the shameful act of human trafficking.
I deeply regret how my brother and I use violent words against each other. I deeply regret how I turn to anger to make others behave as I think they should.
I deeply regret the violence that sometimes takes place at the House of Commons. When we don’t listen to each other, when we raise our voices. When our guests try to solve their problems with it. My failsafe, and theirs. (And the US Military’s). We lost someone this year, a man named Tyler. who frequented our community dinners. He was often beat up by others in the street community because he was so small, and so gentle. I regret that.
I deeply regret the use of violence in fundamentalist religions in the name of God, the Prince of Peace. I deeply regret the violence that is used by a militarized Israel against the Palestinians. I deeply regret hearing about the use of torture by the American government to get information they want. I deeply regret that the Taliban uses violence against children as a vengeance tactic. I deeply regret how the governing bodies of the world regard violence as a viable conflict solution, when it so clearly is not.
I regret all of it. I’m at a point where I’m almost grieving daily for these things. I feel sick in my heart.
I’m trying to figure it out, how we got here – and all I can think of is that we must be operating from a set of profound misconceptions. For example, there is a misconception, particularly within North American Christianity, that it is our nations against other nations, and that God is on our side.
God is not on the side of the nation with more nuclear weapons, or bigger guns, or more political clout, or more economic security. God is always on the side of the oppressed. Always.
It is not Christ-like to react in violence towards those who do not share our opinions. It is not Christian to place the flag of our country before the symbol of the cross. It is not Christian to endorse military-sanctioned violence in other countries. God has not asked us to do that.
What God has asked us to do is to be the peacemakers. He has asked us to lay down our weapons. He has asked us to be kind, He has asked us to be compassionate – especially to people who do not share our opinions. He has asked us to love our enemies. He has asked us to embrace non-violence. To pretend otherwise is to use Jesus to legitimize our own evil desires. I can think of nothing more perverse.
It is an overwhelming, incomprehensible problem. We are weary, we are beleaguered, we have taken on such enormous work. And I know that. Yet, somehow, this Christmas, I found myself hoping, more than anything, for peace. For us to start regarding violence as a blemish, as a stain. For non-violent approaches to conflict. For healing from it.
We’re centuries deep, I tell myself, how can we come back from that? How can I dare to hope for peace? How can I dare to hope for that? But I do. I can’t help myself.
In the presence of Jesus, in the presence of His promise, I hope for it. That is the audacity of hope, you see. There is a coming light. That’s the point of Christmas.
This Christmas, what are you hoping for?