Reflections on “Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace”
Are there any among us who still wonder if we live in a world gone mad? Or have we become so numb to the almost boring regularity of various killings in our nation and around the world that the question fails to register? Last week I attended a national conference held by the Episcopal Church that sought to spark a discussion on this issue. It was host to a surprising (to me) diversity of opinion, including that of Dr. Edward J. Konieczny, the Bishop of the diocese of Oklahoma, a former vice cop who, even now, posses a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Konieczny was a poignant embodiment of a tension that runs through the center of our nation, and the location of the conference, Oklahoma City was also steeped in powerful symbolism.
The photo above is of a teddy bear placed on the memorial wall at the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. Our visit to the memorial was a visceral reminder to me of what is at stake when the church presumes to speak of salvation. Below I have reposted a brief reflection that I was asked to share with the diocese of Minnesota on the experience. I would like to thank Bishop Brian Prior and Missioner, Rolf Lowenberg-DeBoer for graciously inviting me along.
For a conference devoted to fostering a conversation on the topic of gun violence, what struck me most was a tendency to conceive of gun violence as the symptom of a deeper and more universal disease. In his address, the Archbishop of Canterbury was quick to point this out when he declared that any response to violence needs to be rooted in an adequate anthropology. This is a point that, to my mind, our faith communities are especially well suited to address.
Gun violence is a drastic act born of a radical insecurity. Our tradition is filled with imagery depicting a wonderful variety of ways that we are, all of us, estranged, separated, insecure. It was not always this way, say the scriptures. We began our lives in Eden, secure in the immediate presence of life-itself, of God. As we each emerged into our separate identities, we fell away from the immediate presence of God, and we all, to various degrees, learned what it meant to be on our own, separate, insecure, violent. Yet, at the heart of the gospel there is the image of one in whom the immediate presence of the Father was experienced beyond Eden. It was in this security that Jesus chose to undergo the violence born of human insecurity, and it is this security that we are invited to participate in and to live out.
What I heard in so many ways at this conference was that the Christian response to violence is to be found in the security of this unfathomable love. May we yearn to have the courage to receive it.