Two views of the world…
1 John 4:18
Karissa is a part of the EMU cross-cultural group to the Middle-East this semester. I’m jealous! What an opportunity to explore the world–especially a part of our world so rich in historical and contemporary significance.
As I listen to the ongoing political debates this primary season, I am struck by the fact that there are two profoundly divergent narratives guiding the politics of the candidates. Two profoundly different views of the world. Underneath all the rhetoric, all the talking points, I hear two distinctly different framing stories–one driven by fear, the other driven by hope.
Fear says the war on terror is primarily executed through military campaigns–power wielded to deter future attacks on our country. The politics of fear frame the world in adversarial terms. Us against them. Good versus evil. Freedom versus oppression.
On the other hand, I catch a view of the world as a global community within which we (the U.S.) must play a role. The role is not driven by fear which castes our role as imperial power securing the world through force. Rather, we are good neighbors seeking peace and justice for all–the communal narrative is extended beyond our borders to include the community of nations.
The narrative behind the politics of hope sends young adult university students into the Middle East to learn more about the complex issues and histories of this region. Students sit at table with Palestinian, Jew and Christian. Listening to stories. Open to learn. This is what it means to be a good neighbor. This is how we learn how to make peace.
The politics of fear paint the world in hopeless terms. The stakes high. If we don’t attack them, they will attack us. These voices are ubiquitous on talk radio. This view of the world spawns a politics of fear. The world seen through this lens proposes solutions in terms of walls…a stronger military. And yet, this view of the world, and this approach to the world never seems to achieve a lasting peace. The abstraction of security is ever elusive. While there have been no attacks on “the homeland” since 9/11, the sense of security is evasive.
Against the backdrop of violence on the evening news, a prayer of gratitude is heard…thanking God for the freedom to worship in this country without fear of persecution. After the short-term mission trip to help the people in the slums of a third-world barrio, we come home thankful that we live in a land of abundance. A land that makes possible the American dream, the great pursuit of individual meaning through the consumption of resources at whatever level the individual deems necessary for happiness.
It becomes important to note that freedom to worship, a cherished American value, is not necessarily a guaranteed right of the Kingdom of God. It certainly wasn’t the experience of the Church during the first few centuries. Wealth is not the birthright of followers of Jesus. God did not create the earth as a supplier of natural resources just to drive the engine of capitalism. Wealth (and the systemic assumptions as to how wealth is created), freedom to worship–these are secured not by the blood of Jesus, but by the blood and sweat of human sacrifice– even when it requires the use of guns and bombs. The right to worship in a free land is defended not by King Jesus, but by events such as the American Revolution, war against Native Americans, Hiroshima and Nagasaki…Desert Storm…Iraqi Freedom. The conflict in these theaters of war was driven by a narrative that saw the freedom of Americans at stake–not by the narrative of the Kingdom come.
Jesus rejects this way of engaging the powers of evil. Rather, he goes the way of the cross. He calls us to take up our cross. To reject fear as the driving force behind our actions in the world. Instead he calls us to embrace a posture of humble service and love. The way of humility and love is expressed with a basin of water, a towel, a cross. We cannot very well assume this posture in the world and at the same time reject and attack our neighbors. Individual freedom and rights is not a guaranted right or freedom in the way of Jesus.
The way of Jesus us calls us to reject the politics of distortion and divisiveness. The way of Jesus is made visible not just by a righteous and just message, but by a spirit of peace that respects every human being. The fear narrative is circumspect toward those who are different. The fear narrative favors insiders and distrusts outsiders. The fear narrative is more concerned about me getting mine than the community making sure everyone gets some–food, education, opportunity, hope.
Jesus never promises that the Kingdom will come on earth fully, but he calls us to seek it above all else and to pray for it to come. The Kingdom of Jesus is predicated on hope for the world that God loves. May we not become so cynical that we lose faith in the possibility that God’s Kingdom can come on earth as it is in heaven. May we embrace the way of Jesus as our only hope, not just for the world to come, but for this present age.