Sara Miles' book "Take This Bread" was suggested to me by a good friend a couple of years ago. Living on a tight budget, I was only able to order a copy this month — the month I took off for Coming Home's first pilot project; the month off that was supposed to be, but wasn't; the month I suddenly had to fill with purposeful activity on the turn of a dime. Enter: Take This Bread.
Raised as an atheist, indeed with quite a bit of venom towards any religious system, Miles centres on food and its presence and power in cultures around the world. As perplexing as it sounds, she shared in The Eucharist as middle-aged adult and discovered that Jesus proved to be far more than a historical object of ridicule.
In young adulthood, she often worked as an activist with various human rights' organizations in Central America, the Philippines, and other developing nations. She sought out war zones not just for the accolades, but to discover the act of sharing and community that seemed to rise like light in the middle of the most violent fronts.
As I sat by Booster Juice today, flipping through intentional community resources, I opened her book again just as she was describing her war-zone experiences.
Last night, someone posted on Facebook the gruesome pictures of reportedly dead Christians, crucifed by ISIS (newly formed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The post came with the comment that "Christians are the most persecuted people group in the world today".
My heart sank.
Henri, do I even have a say here? I'm living in a land as far away from physical war as you could possibly get without entering the Arctic. It feels that no matter what I say one way or the other (or the other and the other), I have no right to it. But here it is anyway:
I felt that this person had no right posting such a horrible picture/article, with the statement that was made.
We've all already seen dead Palestinian children in Gaza, suffering Syrian refugees, pictures of kidnapped Nigerian girls, reports of rampant FGM in various Islamic and tribal states (female genital mutilation), body bags piled in Ukraine where a commerical airline was downed by… someone's… missile.
And far too many Christians have been silent. Nothing. Nada.
They're part of a social gospel.
They. They. THEY.
And while I grieve for the people who suffered terrible pain in their crucifixions, and for their families who lost loved ones, I cannot in good conscience rant and rave about Christian persecution solely when certain vocal Christians refuse to stand up for the lives of others, whoever those others might be.
I am aghast at what Israel is doing. I weep for what ISIS is doing. My heart breaks for what Boko Haram has done. I am furious over some atheists declaring Meriam Ibrahim as a horrible woman for putting her "fairy god in the sky" above her child (Meriam being a woman originally sentenced to death for refusing to recant her Christian faith in a Muslim state). According to these ideologies, all this global warring is the fault of religion. While I won't discount religions' roles, I refuse to be so simplistic or cruel as to blame people of faith around the world for their own suffering. It's inhumane. But I also know that not all atheists believe this way. I recognize this and trust this; just as I believe, trust and know that there are millions of Muslims, Jews, pagans, you-name-it who are "not" the militant steretypes we so often build of one another.
Speaking of militant stereotypes, I am ashamed for those Christians who declare that Jesus is a warrior god ready to wreak vengeance upon his enemies.
Jesus' enemies were declared beloved. He begged divine forgiveness on their behalf.
Why should I demand the world take notice of us, when we refuse to acknowlege the violent deaths of so many Others — even applaud it?
“As peacemakers, we must resist all the powers of war and destruction and proclaim that peace is the divine gift offered to all who affirm life. Resistance means saying ‘No’ to all the forces of death, wherever they may be.” -Henri Nouwen
We are called to love all people, even in the face of persecution and death, are we not?
We are called to a radical, imaginative, creative life that usurps violent powers in the world, are we not?
We are called to find such boundless Life in Jesus, that our lives transform to become servants to our neighbors, are we not?
When I read reports of Palestinians and Jews around the world living in ways of peace… when I speak with Muslim friends who desire peaceful community with everyone… when I come across Christians who live out community with everyone regardless of political affiliation or ideology… I have a bit more hope. When we all share what food we have together, it seems Spirit is present, transforming us together. Sara Miles discovered that.
I wish I could. I think I am. Last night rattled me a bit.
Some of the most violent voices in the world today claim to be Christian. God knows if they actually are or not. Sorry… that sounds awfully judgy-judgy of me. I know I dislike it when fundies make heretic lists, or tell each other not to associate with so-and-so because of such-and-such. Still…
… when vile violence spews from mouths of people who refuse love to Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians, Syrians, ISIS, Boko Haram or whatever name worldly powers label "terrorist", I want to back away sensing that no love will be forthcoming.
I'm glad there's hope. I'm awfully glad there's hope.
Too many lives have been lost and I can't find words fitting enough to honour them.
But I can choose a Way more peaceful, loving and war-ending than wishing our enemies harm. I refuse to stoop there. I will not go there.
I guess some people could accuse me of saying easy words since, as I said, I live a million miles away from any real war zone. But people in my area feel the freedom to declare horrible Christian persecution around the world, and neglect the suffering of all. It goes both ways.
Thanks, Sara Miles, for helping me find some perspective in the many war zones that are racking up the body count. More than a body count, these war zones are succeeding in spreading propoganda effectively convincing some Christians that we are on the verge of extinction… and a Christian child is more important than a Jewish child or a Muslim child.
May we learn better ways. And soon.
Until next time,