It is the 21st century and we have become a secular society. Now, when we hear “Islam,” people immediately pair it with “extremism,” or “terrorism.” When we hear “Christian,” people think “right wing,” and “homophobic,” etc. And for those of us in the faith community, most of our friends look at us with some confusion. This is understandable. If I am a person of faith, doesn’t that mean I don’t believe in evolution or global warming, and that I think gay people are going to hell? If I’m a Christian, doesn’t that mean I hate Muslims?
Some do. I can’t speak for them. I’ll just speak for the rest of us.
The rest of us believe in science, and technology, in as much as they improve the human condition and make the earth a better place to live in. The rest of us believe in equal rights for all, including our LGBT brothers and sisters, and including our brothers and sisters of other faiths.
The rest of us are pacifists, because Jesus wouldn’t raise a hand in violence even to save his own life. When people fought on his behalf, he scolded them.
The rest of us seek peace and wisdom in our own lives, and work every day to raise our children with compassion. We have high hopes for our children, to be better than we were, and to treat other human beings with dignity, grace, empathy, and genuine love.
Some Christians advocate violence. Some Christians close women’s health centers all across the country, and attack women and gay and trans people for their lifestyles. Some Christians defend the second amendment at the expense of all else, shunning the statistics, arguing with people in the wake of every atrocious mass shooting. Calling people names. That is fine, for them.
The rest of us practice nonviolence, and pray for equality and compassion and safety and kindness to reign in this world. We don’t need to “defend ourselves.” A gun doesn’t defend us. God defends us. Our faith defends us. We look people in the eye and treat them with honesty and kindness. We donate to charity, and volunteer our time, and work to heal the sick, or clothe the naked, or protect the innocent. We pray for people, and the world. That is our defense. And it works.
Some Christians spend a lot of time talking about “defeating the enemy.” I don’t speak for them. The rest of us are not trying to defeat the enemy. Defeating the enemy is nowhere in the commandments of Moses, or the teachings of Jesus. And who is the enemy? Poor people in the Middle East, ravaged by drought and famine, forgotten or oppressed by their government, bombed by American drones, who have known little other than warfare for decades? Is that the enemy? Is that who we want to destroy?
My father is a Navy veteran. Represented in my friends and family are all branches of the military, some active and some retired. I understand that some people are willing to fight, kill, and die for “the mission.” Others work in other ways to support “the mission.” I pass no judgment on them. Some people take personal offense to foreigners who hate America. I can understand why.
Many people say “freedom isn’t free.” Our country needed a civil war, after all, to free the slaves. I believe this is both true and not true. Martin Luther King killed no one. Gandhi killed no one, and Jesus killed no one, and Thich Nhat Hanh killed no one. The Buddha, and Pete Seeger, and Mohammed Ali, and Thurgood Marshall, and Harriet Tubman, and Florence Nightingale killed no one.
Freedom is granted by God, not by warfare. No man controls my freedom, and though he throw me in prison, he still does not control my soul or my values or my integrity. St. Paul and Nelson Mandela and many others spent time in jail.
This is what faith looks like. They call me naive, for not knowing the ways of the world. They tell me that you cannot just be kind to others. The world is too dangerous, or too scary, or too violent. That is fine, for them.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. We will commit, again and again, to practicing loving-kindness and fairness and gentleness. We will make mistakes. We will get angry, especially in the face of injustice. If we are strong, we will channel that anger into positive action, to heal this broken world.
You may not believe in God. That is fine. Your beliefs are your own. I just want you to know that although there are Christians who fight and oppress and judge and pass bigoted laws and justify murder, there are also the rest of us.
We are quieter than them, but we are much, much more numerous. We surround you every day, working in hospitals and schools and homeless shelters. We support gay marriage, and we support the Black Lives Matter movement, and we believe in immigrant’s rights and environmental justice and transgender rights and freedom of expression and freedom of the press. We are in soup kitchens and we are in corporate board rooms and we are in retail stores, doing our small part to make the world are more beautiful place to live. Praying for peace.
They are loud, but we are powerful. They are on television, but we are in your lives. They are pointing fingers, but we are reaching out our hands.
We are more powerful than drone strikes and assault weapons and bigotry and violence. We are unstoppable, and faithful, and free.