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Friday, January 23, 2015

Is Personal Peace Standing In The Way Of Love?

Protestants have a mixed historical record in how they regard prosperity. Some, not all, have regarded prosperity as a sign or proof of God's approval. And what prosperity was to those Protestants, personal peace is to many of today's Christians. New York City minister, William Devlin has complained about how Americans are 'addicted' to personal peace amongst other things (click here). Francis Schaeffer, a famous Reformed theologian in the 20th century regarded personal peace as one of the two idols of America's middle class (click here). Schaeffer described this kind of peace as not just an attitude of indifference to those suffering in the world, but a real avoidance of anything that would disturb a person's present sense of ease regardless of what the future would bring to one's family.

The importance of personal peace today is what we want to keep in mind when reviewing the current article by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky (brief bio is at the end of the article) called, Refusing To Be Comforted (click here). And the rub here is apparent. How much of a hearing can this article possibly get in Christian communities where the priority placed on comfort is at a premium?

Pecinovsky correctly ties the experiences of the Black mothers whose children have been killed by police with the mothers of Bethlehem when Herod had all boy babies under two killed and with the experience of Rizpah whose sons were given over to the Gibeonites in an atonement for Saul's sins. The mothers in these Biblical stories refused to be comforted, an attitude shared by the mothers of young Blacks who have been killed by the police. The refusal to be consoled over these deaths is their way of insisting that their children must forever be remembered. It is also a call to to persist in the pursuit of justice, to let neither those who can provide justice nor those who have done what's wrong rest until justice is restored. And part of justice being restored is the prevention of future killings.

But what Pecinovsky is pursuing here is not just to momentarily disturb us with sad stories of people most of us will never meet. Rather, she wants us to join these mothers in refusing to let the killings of these children be forgotten. Why? It is because we can add to the 'transformative power' of mourning mothers. The Biblical examples showed that these mothers were powerless before the government and yet their mourning carried a powerful message. And here, this is where we can amplify their crying by joining them until justice is done.

Of course, what is missing now is the reason why those of us who are both served by the status quo and protected by the police should embrace discomfort. Since we find protection from the police, why should we believe that the police can be guilty of targeting minorities with violence? And even if we do believe that some of the police are guilty, why should we, in solidarity, join those who will forever mourn the loss of their children? 

Our penchant for personal peace gives us every reason in the world to neither join in nor entertain some uncomfortable realities about some of those who protect us. And our preference for serenity tells us that our unease should be for a short season only which would most likely prevent us from taking any prolonged action. But if we consider how and why God sent His son for us, perhaps we might see that the personal peace we so cherish is preventing us from showing others the love God has showered on us. And this should be considered to be a tragic Christian irony in that what we earnestly seek from God would prohibit us from following His example. So perhaps we should further examine this personal peace we so cherish.

Now this blogpost has been a mix of what Pecinovsky wrote along with my additions. In terms of reviewing what she wrote, the association of the Biblical stories of the bereavement of mothers who were robbed of their children with the mothers of Blacks who have been killed by the police is both interesting and valid. At the same time, we need to remember that not all instances of Blacks being shot by the police are unjust. So Pecinovsky could have been more careful in one of the examples she used because it was questionable. At the same time,  the profiling and the disparity in incarceration rates lends much weight to the contention that some police are either targeting Blacks deliberately or are they lack caution when confronting Blacks due to apathy.





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