Advent and collateral damage


I live in a country that accepts a greater than 50% collateral damage from drone strikes. In other words, most drone bombings kill humans, young, old, women, and children, who are guilty of proximity. Less than half of the drone bombings "successfully" kill their intended targets.

This painting is by Alexey Pismenny of the slaughter of the holy innocents, a liturgical feast day, yesterday, in the church calendar. The day before yesterday, the murderer of an innocent black boy playing with a toy gun, was not indicted for his crime, just like Herod.

We live in a militarized culture that tolerates, no, expects collateral damage, the slaughter of innocents, in order to enforce Pax Americana. "Mistakes were made." If it had happened to an innocent white child, most Americans would expect a different outcome. Our highest court gives our peace officers wide berth to make mistakes in the pursuit of self-defense. Just like our military has an extremely high tolerance for collateral damage.

The majority churches in our country seem to hear this story without critical reflection. The story does not lead to calls of repentance from violence and tools of violence. The 2nd amendment is a deadly political third rail. Not even Jesus' teachings can survive encountering it. Systemic racism cannot be acknowledged. Voting rights denied. Affirmative action dismantled. Military and community police are blended. Half of our tax dollars go to support the largest military in the world by far.

Herod's collateral damage did not bring peace. Rome's collateral damage did not bring peace. It is a non-sequitur to expect violence to end violence. Jesus spoke of a new kingdom. He lived out that new kingdom ethics. He received violence and did not return it. There are communities today trying to live this out. The Amish are known not just for pacifism but for complete non-resistance. Yet, somehow, they are a growing and thriving community, not living in fear of the bogey man, or the brown skinned child. They too have known tragedy. They know the experience of Rachel weeping for her children.
There are many cultures, not just Christian ones, that are able to live peacefully. Jesus calls us to this culture of peace and self-sacrifice. These cultures are already living out Isaiah the prophet's vision as those who have turned their swords into plows. It's tragic that so many Christians have their faith in swords instead of their Lord who told them, "that's enough...love your enemies...turn the other cheek...give to him who asks."

In 2000 years so much of the church has been too afraid to not be afraid. The church continually forgets that what has begun in the spirit will not be finished in the flesh. Love is the strategy for victory. Justice comes with honesty and repentance, not violence.

I will reflect on the slaughter of the innocents. I will pray for Tamir Rice. I will not hate his killer. I will pray for peace. I will practice a life of love. I will testify to the good news that Jesus brings.


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