The aftermath of November 8th is still ringing through our lives – it’s still ringing through my heart – and so I sit here wondering: how did this happen? What, dear god, is going happen to people of color, Muslims, Jews, women, the LGBTQ community, and so many other minority populations now that we’ve effectively given permission to hate groups to be part of the mainstream? And what do we do now? While we’ll be analyzing and debating the “how?’ question for a while, the “what do we need to do now?” question is in some ways easier, at least in the big picture. While specifics have yet to come into focus, the overall needed response is crystal clear: we must fight. We must fight for what is right. We must fight to protect the rights and safety of all in our country. We must fight for justice.
Now, if you’re aware that our theme for September is Peace, and that I’m supposedly writing this article on that topic, you might be wondering how fighting is compatible with peace. For that, we’ll turn to the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote (in our hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, #584):
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
There are some things in our social system to which all of us ought to be maladjusted.
Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that.
We must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation.
The foundation of such a method is love.
Before it is too late, we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which
precipitate and perpetuate war.
One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.
We shall hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.
We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. We must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at the goal. Yes, this, this is what we need. With an interpretation of peace and love where both are defined as strong and powerful and active and outraged and just. As King wrote in Stride Toward Freedom, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” Peace in these times is not going to be “peaceful,” as we traditionally think about it. It is not going to mean the absence of tension; it is in fact, almost certainly going to be full of tension. Seeking peace in this time may in fact look very much like “living justice,” as our mission statement calls us to do. If we are to live into a just peace, we are going to have to be committed, we are going to have to act, and we’re going to have to fight for it.
As King warns us, though, that fight, that powerful activism – it must be grounded in love and peace, for otherwise we shall not overcome. In my November 13th sermon, I suggested that this election calls for us to be “love warriors.” Love – grounded, loving, gentle, compassionate, empathetic. Warriors – fierce, strong, protective, powerful, active. It seems clear to me that we also need to be peace warriors. Gentle, loving, compassionate, grounded, peace warriors.
I also shared in that November 13th sermon that we will not heal the divisions in our country if we demonize those who are different from us, if we’re unable to create relationships and learn to better understand and relate to those who voted for Trump. It is true too that we will be unable heal the divides in our country if we are anger warriors. This is not to say we shouldn’t be angry. We should and must be angry. We should and must be passionate. We should and must do everything we can to stand with and help those who will almost certainly be oppressed. And we should and must do our very best to carry out our actions, not with anger, but with peace and love in our hearts, so that the actions themselves, our presentation, everything about what we do – conveys peace and love. A just peace must not only be the end we seek, it must also be the method we use to seek it.
I hope and pray that one day we won’t need to be warriors for peace and love, that one day peace and love will simply be the way of our country, and the way of the world. But for right now, as we serve as warriors for peace, love and justice, may peace and love be our primary tools in the fight. Love is not just mushy and soft; peace is not always just peaceful. May fierce love and just peace win the day.
See you in church!
(just) peace, (fierce) love and blessings,