I was driving from Chicago to Rochester, New York on March 15, and, typically listening to favorite CDs, to pass the time away, while doing my best to keep my focus on the road.
It wasn’t until early afternoon that I took a break from the music, switched to scan the radio, and got caught up on the news of the day.
What a shock to my consciousness when I first learned of the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch! No, not just to my consciousness, but my entire body, my entire being.
When I stopped for gas and checked my phone for more information and any messages, there were already statements of sympathy from organizations and a request from my Parliament colleagues for something from me. I had forgotten to bring even a pen or pencil with me, so had to ask the cashier for something to write with.
The words didn’t come easy. Lots of attempts and lots of scratching out of words and sentences. Finally, I came up with this:
The depravity of the acts of mass terror and carnage against our Muslim sisters and brothers in Christchurch, New Zealand, sickens people of faith and conscience across the globe. In our own distress, we extend our profound sympathy to those families who have suffered such devastating loss. But those of us who claim to be agents of the sacred cannot medicate ourselves with words, we must instead gain strength and direction from deeper sources of power and wisdom to challenge the disease of hate and violence in our world with action. And, from our different traditions, we must act together.
As it turned out, I didn’t have a way of getting those words to the colleagues who were drafting and publishing our Parliament statement.
But when I resumed driving, I kept mulling over what I was trying to get at with those quickly written words: “words” of sympathy and solidarity yes; but “words” that were not enough.
But what would be “enough?”
My impulse had been that only “action” would be enough. But not ordinary action. It would have to be an action that drew on “deeper sources of power and wisdom” that people of faith and conscience laid claim to. It would also have to be sources of power and wisdom that actually had the capacity to bring us – people of faith and conscience – together to challenge the hate and violence we were again confronting in such a shocking way.
At least a preliminary answer, I confess, didn’t emerge immediately. It was more a sense of frustration that I couldn’t discern what that action might be.
But finally, I remembered the phrase that served as the theme for the Toronto Parliament event from last November: “The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love.”
Really? Did I really believe that?
As a test, I surveyed the kinds of actions that would effectively address our critical issues (justice, peace, and ecological sustainability) and critical populations (women, indigenous peoples, and “next gen”). Yes, inclusive love had to be a central component of each of those issues and populations, along with other strategies.
But overcoming hate and violence and achieving peace seemed to me to resist the rich formula of the Parliament event: could a shared love, along with some imaginative strategies, actually work to abolish hate and violence in our world?
Was there sufficient power to accomplish that? Even a power that drew from a sacred source?
The question I had to ask myself was: OK, if not inclusive love, were there other sources and other strategies that could be employed to put an end to the senseless violence and the self-defeating hate that increasingly seems to plague our world?
Honestly, I haven’t been able to come up with the possible alternatives.
But might inclusive love that drew on a sacred source be enough? And if it might be that powerful, how could that inclusive love be forged and deployed in our world?
A few days ago I remembered listening to the radio on a trip in southern California and hearing an advertisement for a faith-based medical system. The final line of the ad went like this: “We love people back to life.”
It has struck me since that recall of the ad that hate and violence actually are the enemies of life and that the alternative to death might actually be love – love in the sense of our mutual care for one another inclusively.
The thought has then repeatedly occurred to me is that the key mission of the interfaith movement is to develop strategies and disciplines of inclusive love.
That’s the work that we must accomplish together.
I honestly don’t know. But I do think it is worth a try.