E and H,
The world is on fire.
People are afraid because men, overcome by anger and hatred and fueled by a false ideology, have killed thousands in cities over the sea. Fear and grief does something to the human heart- it divides us and turns us on each other. Where once we saw a person who dressed differently, or who spoke with an accent, we now see monsters in people who love, hurt, fear and laugh in the very same ways you and I do.
One day, in school, you’ll learn about the events of 2015. It was an explosive year.
You’ll learn about the massacre in Paris, the bombing in Beirut, the riots in Ferguson, police brutality against minorities, the Supreme court decision about equal marriage, and ultimately, you’ll stand with some distance and see how the Church responded to it all. I’m afraid you won’t like what you read.
You’ll read about how the lifeless bodies of kids, not much older than you are now, which washed up on nameless shores and read about how our leaders called for the return of the innocent millions back to a country which has already slaughtered millions of their people. This while the biggest issue we face is the removal of Santa from a red coffee cup.
You’ll read about how our country divided among racial and socio-economic lines. Our churches more willing to side with the powerful at the expense of the oppressed. How we shamed those who dare speak out that an unjust system should be reformed.
You’ll see fear and brokenness which saturated our responses.
You’ll see the fear in our words and in our legislation.
You’ll see the division in our attempts for control.
You’ll see how we refused to affirm the Imago Dei, the image of God, in others because we listened to a pundit rather than a poor immigrant born in a manger.
If I’m honest, most days I worry we’ve elevated Herod over the impoverished baby from Bethlehem.
I write you this letter not to shame myself or others, instead I write these words because I desperately want you to learn from our failure. I hope our actions reveal the deadly consequences of choosing partisan politics and fearfulness over the optimism of grace and the hope of an emerging, Christ-centered Kingdom.
In many ways, the problems of today will be the problems of tomorrow. While the names, dates and events will be different, the tendency to walk the path of fear will be the same. After all, we know people will always peddle fear; societies trade fear like currency.
Fear sells magazines and fear gets clicks, but fear will never change the world for the better. Fear can only consume us. Eating away the good in us, and blinding us to the humanity in others.
So, my children, please learn from us.
Know that life doesn’t need to be lived in fear.
Know every life is deeply valuable. All life. Not just life in a womb. Not just in America. The life of a dead Syrian child weighs every bit as much as a living America child.
Know there is something deeply holy about defending from harm someone you dislike or disagree with.
Know that the simple act of hospitality can change the world. Never underestimate the power of a warm bowl of soup, or a warm bed, to heal divisions among enemies.
Ultimately, I wish we had been better. I wish we had modeled the Kingdom of God better. However, as a pastor, I know God is always at work. His spirit is always moving. And I know he’ll mold and shape us. I know we’ll grow. I know these wounds will heal.
So, my kids, hear my heart, learn from us, and live in radical hope. Live in Kingdom optimism. Live in love. Live out forgiveness. Offer grace. Bring about peace. Fight for reconciliation.
It may cost your life, but that’s a life worth losing.
I love you, and am proud of who you are becoming.