Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” – NRSV Genesis 4:8-12
As if hate and violence haven’t been on my mind enough the last week I’ve been assigned Elie Wiesel for this weekend’s class discussion. And this weekend is scheduled to target mosques with protests in the US. One of them is in my beloved home state of Colorado. Too close to home.
The fire is all burned out of me right now. I’m just sad. Sad in a place beyond tears. Sad for our children. Sad for my neighbors. Sad for my siblings. For we are all siblings before God. And we have soaked this earth in blood.
I can’t imagine showing up for church with my children and having an open-carry protest at our house of worship.
Some day we Christians are going to have to realize that if we really want to carry the good news we will demand that our Jewish and Muslim and Buddhist and Hindu and pagan and even atheist neighbors have the same rights and freedoms we have. We get our holidays off work and schools are closed for them. We are never searched in airports because we stopped to pray. It is rare our churches are vandalized or violated. Every single president of the United States has been at least nominally Christian. (Although there are a few I’m not sure had the reading skills to understand the Bible….) Our children are not bullied for their names or their lunches or the name they use to call God. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t mind having a different name in every language.
How can we call ourselves Christians if we spread violence and hate and fear? The very beginning of our Book tells us that we are our brothers’ keepers. It’s on page 3 in my copy. There is no excuse for hate and violence. None. Cain spends the rest of his life homeless and wandering. Oh, God still loves him and protects him but he is now forever a fugitive. He hasn’t only killed his brother – he’s also killed the best part of himself.
How can we pretend to follow Christ while ignoring injustice against even one person? Our instructions are clear: love God, love neighbors, love enemies. We’re so busy arguing over the age of the planet and the morality of gay marriage we seem to have forgotten what we’re here for. It isn’t to argue. If we really want to spread that good news we will do it by remembering that The Law is summed up by Love. And you don’t love people by blocking their house of worship. Or by tacitly condoning it by keeping silent and looking the other way.
Contrary to what some will say forgiveness and the cross do not in any way relieve us of responsibility. No, they make us more responsible. If we really believe that we have been set free though Jesus then it follows that that freedom makes us more capable of loving responses. I may be a long, long way removed from where these protest are happening. There may not be anything I can do physically or in person. But I am still able to type this little, pathetic plea as my response. It’s the least I can do.
I’ve had enough hurting and hating. I’ve had enough violence and violation. I can keep quiet. I can save my time and my energy for my own little selfish troubles. I’m getting behind on my homework with all this writing. But I’ve had enough. I’ve spent decades being quiet and not rocking any boats.
Watching someone hurt and doing nothing is just as evil as hurting someone yourself. We can turn away. We can pretend it isn’t our problem. We can join the bullies. Or we can watch. We can speak up. We can show our support. We can imagine if it was us showing up to Sunday school and facing lines of angry, hateful armed protesters. If we live close by we can show up and love our neighbors by protecting their right to pray. If we live far away we can write, we can talk, we can pray. We can be there in spirit and show our support.
It is because, not in spite of, being a bit of a Jesus freak that I support my Muslim neighbors this weekend. Peace be with you my friends.