August 2017

Harvey and Hatred

This week was marred by one of the most devastating hurricanes in history, a thousand-year-event, flooding multiple cities and wreaking havoc on Southern Texas and Western Louisiana. In the midst of Hurricane Harvey, as we see so often in tragedy and disasters, humanity united. Neighbor helped neighbor, African-Americans helped Irish-American helped German-American helped Jewish-American helped Syrian-American and so on. The hatred and violence that we've too much of recently faded into the miasma of human need and suffering. It's helped me to view some texts from the Hebrew Scriptures a bit differently—good often comes from tragedy, disaster, and war.

Often in the Hebrew Scriptures prophets and priests interpret doom and tragedy, war and threats of war to be the wrath of God upon the people for their sins, usually injustice or idolatry. The prophets and priests offer God's word of redemption and hope through repentance and humility and a vision for a new kingdom, a new world. This week, we have seen such a hope—a dream of a new world where neighbors help one another because of the humanity of each, regardless of race, gender, sexual identity or social class. There are countless tales of people risking themselves to help another, heading out into dangerous waters to rescue the perishing. And it would seem that the hatred of Charlottesville is forgotten for a time.

The question, of course, is why? Why is it only for a time? Why do we bond as human beings through tragedy and create division between one another in times of 'peace'? Why do we wait until people are hurting to offer help and assistance?

Perhaps the prophetic warnings of the Hebrew Scriptures are more about reminding the people that they shouldn't accept injustice or war or wait until people are in pain to help. In reaching out to one another and building bonds of peace we create a new world in which racism has no room to flourish and hatred pales in the face of human kindness.

Here's how an early Church preacher put it:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  

For he is our peace;

in his flesh he has made both groups into one

and has broken down the dividing wall,

that is, the hostility between us.

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances,
that he might create in himself

one new humanity in place of the two,
thus making peace,

and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross,

thus putting to death that hostility through it.

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off

and peace to those who were near;

for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,

but you are citizens with the saints

and also members of the household of God,

built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 

In him the whole structure is joined together

and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;

in whom you also are built together spiritually

into a dwelling place for God.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Eph 2:13–22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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