The news this past weekend out of Charlottesville, Virginia, has been troubling on both moral and political grounds. White nationalists, racists, neo-nazis, bigots, alt-right, KKK–there are so many words and ways to particularize hatred. It’s especially jarring to note that Friday night’s violence involved angry, torch-wielding demonstrators surrounding a churrch while chanting “blood and soil” as well as anti-semitic and racial slogans. This hatred breeds violence, which causes death, injury, and destruction of society’s norms and institutions. Our way of life and future are threatened. It is everything that the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven is not. As such, it’s especially jarring to turn to this week’s lectionary scriptures.
First, what the psalmist has to say in this very short psalm:
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore. –Psalm 133
The Gospel writer Matthew shares a difficult passage about a Canaanite woman who seeks out Jesus, asking for mercy for her sick daughter. What makes this scripture selection challenging is Jesus’ initial response: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). Fortunately, the Canaanite woman refused to accept that response: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Ouch.
Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Remember the plaintive plea from Rodney King, now so many years ago: “Why can’t we all just get along?” Why indeed!
Yet we don’t, and not only that but we keep inventing new ways to disagree and to target the other person as not only different but wholly “other” and “wrong” and quite possibly evil. Our society is getting harder and meaner with each passing year. Politics is no longer about compromise but out-and-out warfare. Way back during the Obama presidency (I know it’s been just a few months, but it seems so much longer), one commentator claimed that large segments of the Republican Party didn’t just dislike President Obama; they simply couldn’t accept the legitimacy of any Democratic President. And so here we are years later with President Trump and, arguably, one of the most dysfunctional times in American national governance.
Apparently, few people are bothering to listen to others these days. Yet without listening, there is no hope of understanding. Lacking understanding, there is constant turmoil.
If I had the answer to our present political and societal discord I’d offer it free of charge. But I don’t. Perhaps one key can be found in the response of that Canaanite woman who refused to accept “no” as a final answer (as well as Jesus’ condescending attitude). For that she was commended for her faith. She knew what was right and what her daughter needed–and didn’t give up.
On the surface that might appear to be “drawing a line in the sand,” but I think there’s a significant difference. Her actions were prompted by a parent’s love for her child. In so many ways we keep coming back to love: Love God and love your neighbor; that is the essence of the law. That is our only hope for the future, as well.
My new book, Speak to the Bones: How to Be a Prophetic People in a Time of Exile, is up on Amazon in both print and e-book formats: 161-page Book ; Kindle e-book.The ancient Hebrew prophets can serve as guides for modern-day prophetic communities to engage in actions for peace and social justice. Each of the 10 chapters includes questions for reflection and discussion, making this great for class use.</