I was reading in the newspaper today about the recent sectarian violence in Turkey and Pakistan. I was thinking about how much tribal, factional, “us” vs. “them” violence still happens all the time all over the world. It doesn’t just happen in places where we Americans can point and say, “What’s the matter with them?” It happens in this country too. (How many gay youths have been bullied or beaten recently and remember the massacre of six worshipers at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee?) I guess it’s been uppermost in my mind lately because a spiritual practice group I belong to is having an event in remembrance of Dr. King in a few days. There will be discussions during the event and two of the themes are, “the goal of interracial, global Christian fellowship” and “the pursuit of justice as a holy calling.”
In light of the violence, I asked myself if true interracial, global fellowship (Christian or otherwise) and therefore peace, is actually possible. And given peoplekind’s penchant for using “otherness” as a reason for inequity and for that matter, elimination, can the pursuit of justice ever be consistent with a goal of peace and fellowship?
Sometimes I fear, in my more pessimistic moments, that the only way we’ll have peace and justice is by the “Day the Earth Stood Still” model; that is if we’re forced into it by beings much wiser than ourselves. That would achieve peace and begrudging justice but that couldn’t be called fellowship, could it? It’s more than just my being disheartened and saying, “Oh, the fate of the world!” It’s because I belong to a faith community now and if we’re going to talk the talk I wonder if it is really possible for us to walk the walk. Do even people of faith fear deep down that our human nature negates the possibility? I was around during Dr. King’s ministry and at that time many people were fast and loose with the use of the words peace and justice. They became rallying cries for assorted social and political agendas. Unfortunately, many times those agendas didn’t include “others”. Are we still throwing the terms around? Are these discussions really meaningful to us in the context of our modern world views? Are we simply having them because it’s MLK’s birthday and we think it’s what we’re supposed to talk about at the interfaith events and prayer breakfasts?
I went to one of my favorite sources of lucidity and insight in these matters, Richard Rohr. (https://cac.org) In his book “Breathing Underwater” he says, ‘…a system of retributive justice (author’s italics) …has controlled the story line of 99 percent of history. It seems history could not see what it was not ready to see; but in our time more and more are ready and willing to understand. One cannot help but believe there is an evolution of human and spiritual consciousness.” He goes on to say that there are many theories (like Spiral Dynamics) that describe the evolution and they “are recognizing that history is moving forward, even if by fits and starts, and even many steps backwards.” (pg 39) I wonder if Dr. King would believe that now. When I think about his agenda I wonder if he would think the fits and steps backwards are too large to move past. But then I think, of course he would have the kind of faith Fr. Rohr has.
I want to have that kind of faith. I want to believe the theories and research are correct. I want to believe that the conversations my community is having aren’t just because it’s MLK’s birthday but because they are a manifestation of our evolution.
I guess that has to be a component of my faith, believing that the process of working toward peace and justice is important even without the expectation of witnessing the eventual success.