Tag Archives: Reconciliation

God can fix this!

God can fix this.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in the US – this time in San Bernardino, California  – people are questioning their faith in each other and in God. “God Isn’t Fixing This” was the headline in the NY Daily News coverage, shaming prayer givers in the aftermath of tragedy. The knee jerk response is already unfolding in a twitter storm of #prayershaming and an outpouring of even more cynical attacks from left and right. Meanwhile, the victims are being forgotten and real point is being missed.

Prayer may not be the answer to all our problems, but it *is* a good starting point. It does (or should) provide a moment of focus and introspection. Prayer helps us define and vocalize our personal relationship to God, family and community. Prayer is not simply a placebo to make us feel good about ourselves. Nor is it an alternative to action, but it can be an important call to action.

In short, this is not God’s problem to fix, it’s our problem to fix. We should start by recognizing that we are all God’s children. The interfaith appeal by the muslim community in southern California is an important effort and it should be embraced and supported. Regardless of the outcome of the San Bernardino investigations, it would be wrong to indict any religious faith for the acts of individuals. Instead we should call on all communities of faith to condemn violence and use the power of prayer to unite us behind a common cause of peace and reconciliation.

It is also wrong for politicians to suggest that a single bandaid like solution such as gun control, enhanced surveillance or better mental health care is the answer to all our problems. Indeed, a combination of these and other measures is probably necessary and the greedy scoring of political points is not the best way of getting things done. We should have learned that by now.

What can and should be done immediately, is to tone down the rhetoric of blame and hatred, which only serves to divide us at a time when unity of purpose is necessary. Extremism begets extremism. Whether it is directed toward Planned Parenthood, people of color, the LGBT community or everyday Americans just going about their peaceful pursuit of liberty, vitriol sparks violence and violence inspired by hate is tantamount to terrorism.

Yes, God can fix this, but it’s really our problem to fix. We have the God given intellect and will to overcome our differences and do great things if we don’t give in to the politics of hate and division. It’s high time that we start using God’s gift as he intended for us to use it. I pray that we start fixing this now.

Man in the Middle

From a shortlist that included Edward Snowden, Bashar Assad and Ted Cruz, it is a true blessing that Pope Francis was chosen as TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year:

The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.

It is in that spirit of change that the significance of TIME’s choice lies. Regardless of faith and personal circumstance, Pope Francis stirs a real hope that things can and will change for the better. In a year full of disenchantment in political leaders and other agents of change, the Pope holds out the prospect for a renewed optimism.

As “OnFaith” blogger Elizabeth Tenety writes in the Washington Post, progressives in media and politics have embraced with glee the new Pope’s critique on “the “obsessed” narrow-mindedness of those in the church.” The Pope’s message of humility, tolerance and inclusion are indeed a big draw for those of us disillusioned by some conservatives too quick to judge alternative lifestyles and progressive beliefs.

Elizabeth Tenety also points out, however, that Pope Francis is not in fact advocating an overhaul of the core beliefs of the Church. He is no more in favor of gay marriage or abortion than previous popes. The new Pope does, on the other hand, want to change the culture and tone of debate around these (for conservatives) controversial issues in favor of greater reconciliation and understanding. 

In life, as in politics, we may not always agree on what is “right”, but we can usually agree on what is wrong. According to the Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

If sowing the seeds of discord – the greatest of these abominations – has had an impact on our lives this past year, then clearly some of the other candidates on TIME’s shortlist deserve their due recognition. The will to overcome and improve the human condition, however, seems to have a greater appeal to the masses. The quest for peace, a sustainable environment and economy, a just government, respect for privacy and civil liberties, human rights and the freedom from poverty and oppression – these are the things we can and should agree on.

Pope Francis stands center stage in these debates. As a moderator and man in the middle, who seeks to surround himself by a congregation of the faithful committed to achieving a greater good, he deserves our prayers and the acclaim as TIME magazine’s Person of the Year.

Conquering the Divide

At this point I have to admit that I am not catholic, and I am by no measure a biblical scholar. The motivation for this blog stems from a firm belief that no one should walk alone. Pope Francis’ plea for our prayers appealed to me as a person of faith regardless of my religious orientation.

Belief in God or a greater good provides many people a sense of purpose and hope in the face of the otherwise mundane worries and iniquities of everyday live. With religiously motivated tensions on the rise around the world, spirituality is increasingly seen in a negative light. As Samuel Huntington criticized in his well-known book, “The Clash of Civilizations,” religious fervor and the zeal of Christian and Islamic missionaries pursuing their singular viewpoints threaten to unleash political upheaval, social unrest and violence — hardly an uplifting thought for the spiritually minded. Unfortunately, religious leaders have done little to mitigate these developments in the recent past.

Pope Francis seems to depart from the dogmatic views of his predecessor. Instead, the new pope’s messaging carries a moderate and conciliatory tone. His speech and prayers to the Egyptian people are case in point. In unmistakeable language, the Pope condemns violence as un-christian:

“The word of the Gospel does not authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is just the opposite: the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible.”

These are welcome words when we are too often bombarded with images of burning mosques and churches, when the burning of religious symbols and inciting violence toward each other is condoned by some as acceptable or even expected behavior.

I pray that the message of Pope Francis is heard far and wide and that more religious leaders of different creeds speak and act responsibly to promote peaceful co-existence. Only then can we truly have faith that a purposeful and hopeful life will endure.