Obviously, I hadn’t initially planned on writing about this back when I had started thinking about this new blog. No one plans to write about these things.
I debated postponing the first post until after some of the shock and terror calmed down and we were more sure of the details. I also considered just ignoring it and pretending like it never happened.
But I wanted to talk about this, at least briefly. Not out of obligation–though I do feel a bit of that tension just out of the very nature of this blog–but because it needs to be discussed. I believe that it is part of my duty, both as a Christian and as a member of the human race, to talk about this. Ignoring hell does not keep it from existing; if anything, it only perpetuates its reign. And so it must be acknowledged and addressed both critically and with an open mind.
As I’m sure you know, there was a terrorist attack in Paris, France yesterday, in which at least 129 human beings were killed and at least 352 more were injured. President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and stated that France will respond “mercilessly” to the attackers, and President Obama stated that the United States is “prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance is needed that the government and people of France need to respond.”
WHAT ARE WE TO DO?
My heart aches for the people in France. I have not been able to think straight since I first heard about the attacks. The most sensible response I have been able to utter is simply, “Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”
I want so deeply to be a strict pacifist. I believe in a God that preaches peace and tells his followers not to murder or hate, but to love our enemies as well as our neighbors and to turn the other cheek. I believe in this message, and I try to live each passing day following the teachings of Jesus.
But when something like this happens, what do we do? How do we react? Do we respond mercilessly as President Hollande suggests? Do we try to take down the bad guys and end terrorism by ending the lives of the terrorists? Do we create fantasies of going back in time and giving guns to the victims of the Holocaust or killing Baby Hitler (or Baby Hussein or Baby bin Laden or Baby Ghengis Khan or Baby Anyone Else)? Do we change our profile pictures on Facebook and tweet with the hashtags #PrayForParis or #PrayForPeace or #JeSuisParis, or post Martin Luther King quotes that after a while just seem too cliche to mean anything anymore?
In so many situations like this, the common response to extreme violence seems to be more extreme violence. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and when we are still in shock and trying to comprehend the true mass of what happened, our very genuine human emotions seem to get the best of us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian theologian in Germany in the early-to-mid 20th century and was still there when Adolf Hitler became the leader. Like many of us, he believed that his faith taught him to believe that violence was wrong; that, as Christians, we are to love and not respond to violence with more violence. However, in 1945, he was executed for being a member of an organization that plotted to kill Adolf Hitler (while some say that he was one of the leaders of the organization, scholars today believe that he was more of a messenger, a place or two removed from the actual planning).
Whatever the case, I feel like I can relate to Bonhoeffer on this issue. When people keep killing and show no signs of stopping, what are we to do? Sit idly by? Passively allow it to continue on? #PrayForPeace?
I refuse to believe that we are just meant to be passive, that turning the other cheek means allowing evil to carry on as it does. But I also refuse to believe that violence could possibly be a logical resolution to violence. Yes, we should absolutely pray. But I know that when all I do is pray, my conscience still feels incomplete. That we are to do more than simply “Let Go and Let God.”
So what are we, as Christians, as children of God, as members of the human race, to do?
The last thing I would suggest is to stop praying. May we not be afraid to grab hands, light a candle, pour each other a strong one, and sing Dona Nobis Pacem and Kyrie Eleison as loudly as we possible can.
But may we also seek to go deep, deep into the heart of the issue. May we search our own inner beings and look for places where hate and prejudice consume us. And may we throw down into the depths of Sheol. May we, like Jesus, come preaching peace. May we live out love and teach others to do the same. And when terror strikes, may we not declare another human being as the enemy, but may we instead see it as a matter of the heart. Evil is the enemy. Hatred is the enemy. It is something that dwells inside each and every one of us, and it is something that must be disposed of post haste. This is not passivity; it is the most radical, active initiative we can take.
Violence is an attempt to fill a void in our hearts that can only truly be quenched with love. We react in anger–as we should–and we want the injustice to end–as we should. But that anger must be justified in a different way, a way that is not the very thing that created it. If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, may our response to radical hatred be radical love.
I would like to close with a prayer that has become, in a sense, my mantra of late. It is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, though there’s no proof of that. Regardless, it’s still a beautiful prayer, and it is the prayer that I want to pray here today. It says,
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal love.
May we love in a way that defies logic and understanding. May we cling to the hope of the advent of Christ in the times when he seems farthest away. May we never lose hope in that which is Good.
Thanks for reading. Until next time.