Love in a Time of Mass Shootings
What does it mean to Love One Another?
As I spent the week with my head down trying to finish the final proofing and edits of my book, the world continued on. It almost seems futile at times to try to write a book that is current when the world will change as the email is sent with all the final documents attached.
The lectionary text for this past Sunday was Jesus’ command to the disciples: Love one another as I have loved you. A simple command on the surface, but it stands in stark contrast to the events of a week that contained two mass shootings. The one in Buffalo is being categorized as a hate crime as the shooter was a self-proclaimed white supremacist who left a manifesto online making it very clear his aim was to kill Black people who were threatening to “replace” white people. That replacement theory is as old as this country: older even. The idea of whiteness was invented to unify people of European descent against the indigenious people and enslaved Africans who were beginning to outnumber them. They wanted to be sure they were united in an idea that would help keep these other groups subjugated and enslaved. So whiteness was born: from the shared desire for supremacy.
The shooting in California was evidently motivated by the shooter’s disgruntlement over political issues between China and Taiwan. So he, a person from China, went and tried to kill people from Taiwan.
These things don’t make any sense on the surface, and yet the threat of violence is always bubbling under the surface of our nation threatening to erupt at any given moment as people perceive movement towards equality and equity as a threat to their power. In such an environment, what does it mean to say that we love?
There are vital clues to us in the text itself. First of all, it’s Jesus saying to love as he loved. And what kind of love did he show us? He showed us a self-sacrificing love that was willing to give his all for the good of others. And who was he talking to? He was talking to the disciples. This small, select group of people were made up of tax collectors, fisherman, farmers, and women (even if the women weren’t names among the official 12, the group that followed him included people beyond the 12, and Jesus reveals himself to the women first at his resurrection).
These people had little to no political power especially in a conquered country run by emissaries of the empire who had conquered them. For Jesus, there was no “other.” He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, healed on the request of a Roman soldier, touched lepers who were literally untouchables in his day, and lost honor contests with women in public.
Love one another. Love means desiring the thriving of your neighbor. Love works for the thriving of your neighbor. Love means there is no “other.” Love isn’t love if anyone is left out.
Love means working to end systemic oppression. Love is more than platitudes. Love gets down in the dirt, sits at the well, gets in the fishing boat, sits at the bedside, and through it all works to bring new life to a hurting world.
Love isn’t love if anyone is left out, or discounted, or not thriving. Love isn’t love if we ignore the systems of oppression that keep our neighbors from thriving. Love isn’t love if we won’t do the hard work of dismantling systemic oppression in our own hearts.
Love one another. Commit to the hard work, one little step at a time. Love one another.
There’s no such thing as too small an action to make a difference as long as we commit to consistency. All we have to do is begin.
Inward Apocalypse is Done! (I hope).
“I wish I could still believe in God, but I can’t be a Christian anymore because of ______” Fill-in-the-blank with racism, misogyny, homophobia, toxic capitalism, and so on. I’ve had this conversation with different people almost word-for-word over and over. White American Christianity has so defined God that many people cannot separate God from the toxic theology they were taught.
But this isn’t the God I see in the Bible. The Bible shows us a God meeting people where they are and nudging them towards justice and total thriving for all: shalom. The Bible details arcs of justice and societal reform. If we understand how radical those arcs were in the context of the day, we can extend them forward into the future and figure out how to work for justice, total thriving, and societal reformation in our day.
I grew up in that first world view. Come along, and I’ll tell you the story of how I escaped, and I’ll show you a theology that I believe paints a more accurate picture: a faith for the common good where everyone thrives and no one is left out. —Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good.
I sent my final documents to the publisher yesterday. Here’s hoping they don’t find anything that needs one more revision!
You can still join the launch community and read the book early! Simply click here and fill out the google form.
If you’ve never been a part of a launch before, it’s pretty easy. You don’t need any prior experience! You will be invited to a Facebook group that will serve as a single place to disperse information. There will be social media squares with quotes and such provided for you to share on your accounts, but the biggest thing is having people commit to reading the book early and having a review ready to post when the book goes live. This helps sales immensely because it makes the almighty algorithms work in the books favor.
If you think you can do that, then please join in!
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