Category Archives: Culture & Social Issues/Ethics

For the Church& Pastors:  “Tribe: On Homecoming & Belonging”

“What if long-term PTSD is less about what happened out there (in combat), and more about the society they come back to?”

 This past November, I heard author and journalist Sebastian Junger speak at a Navy SEAL Foundation conference on mental health issues within the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community. Junger, who covered wars on the ground in Sarajevo and Afghanistan, and who developed a case of short-term PTSD himself, posed this question out of his reflection and research on combat and combat veterans. 

It is a well-known statistic that less than one percent of our nation’s population serves in all the branches of our military combined. According to 2014 census data collected by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, about 7.3 percent of the U.S. population have prior military experience of any kind. As a nation that has been in a constant state of war over the last 16 years and in light of overly-dramatic movies and a nearly-cultish fascination with culture of special operations forces (Navy SEAL, MARSOC, Army Ranger & Delta Force, AFSOC, etc), does the general population – do we –  have a realistic awareness and understanding of what currently serving military service members, veterans, and their families experience?

In “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” (Hatchette Book Group: 2016) Junger paints a realistic view of not just the combat experience, but the current, constant operational state of our military, manifest in deployments that have increased in frequency and have become longer in duration. Junger also offers a challenging and compelling portrait of our modern society and the implications of our collective society’s value of absolute individualism and autonomy. The struggle, he argues, isn’t so much from the trauma experienced half a world away, fighting alongside and relying on others for survival. The struggle is that when ripped from that close-knit group on the return home, facing the reality of every day life is incredibly isolating. The struggle is while one experienced a strong sense of belonging and purpose on a battlefield, it cannot be so easily found in a society where no one seems to be able or willing to share life in a similar way.

This portrait in Junger’s “Tribe” offers a chance to reflect on what ministry to and for others in the context of the military might look like. Yet I think another unintended message in the book is that it draws us into a haunting and sobering truth about the nature of the society we live in today. Where individualism, progress, and seemingly unlimited access and choices reign, what does it mean when we no longer believe that we need each other for anything in this life? What is lost when the only solution for our struggles in this life is the offer of goods and services, and even care is narrowly relegated to the realm of professionals and programs? I’m not suggesting that these services aren’t important or needed, and neither is Junger. However, the argument that Junger is making – and I think he’s right – is that it is our responsibility to collectively take on the task of healing individuals from trauma, not to induce it on them by turning our backs away in fear, indifference, or in contempt.

One of my favorite roles as a pastor and Navy chaplain is what I learn through the outsider and the other. When I come across others, hear their story, and minister to them, I learn something about myself and about God. I learn what it means to share and bear suffering as Christ suffered on the cross, and I learn what it means to be community that longs in hope for reconciliation, grace, and new life in the reality of suffering. In the context of military service members and veterans, my ministry is shaped by offering pastoral care in times of emotional, spiritual, and relational crises caused by frequent and long deployments and what is experienced while on them.  It is creating a sense of connection and space so that they can heal through the process of making meaning of their past experience. 

 This shapes how I lead as a pastor for those who experience similar crises and trauma caused by a world of isolation that has the ability to crush people’s humanity and spirit. If anything, I’ve learned that for most people, the desire isn’t for more resources, services, and programs. It’s a desire for community in which they can belong to, for it’s in that sense of belonging one finds a community to bear their own weariness, and their sense of purpose and value as part of something greater than themselves.
For Junger, this is why people tended to thrive in tribal societies; problems such as PTSD were non-existent. What Junger calls “tribe” is really what we as Christians call community. While not a theological argument for community in the way of Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together,” it won’t be hard for the seminary trained person and layperson alike to hear the theological themes in “Tribe.” Convincing people in our congregations today to care for military service members, veterans, and their families is not too hard to do these days. Convincing the same that this community and the context of war and combat has something to teach us about ourselves and our own poverty, perhaps that is reason enough to read “Tribe.” As Junger concludes in the book’s introduction,

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”

 Amen.

Rev. Aaron Fuller is a bi-vocational pastor in the ELCA and Chaplain in the Navy Reserve. He has served two parishes in the Virginia Synod and was recalled to active duty in June 2016 to serve as chaplain at Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center, Norfolk, VA. He and his wife Kelly reside in Virginia Beach, VA.

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The Politics of the Pulpit: Preaching on Sunday, 9/11

September 11th, 2016 will be somewhat of a rarity for preachers: it is the 15th Anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. For most of us, we can recall what happened and where we were on that morning in 2001. Some have called it our generation’s defining event, much like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Vietnam War was for their respective generations.

However, it’s defined us in a completely different way. We’re not like the Pearl Harbor generation, who collectively rallied together as a nation in support of the nation’s involvement in WWII. Yet we’re also not like the Vietnam War generation, who collectively divided as a nation to its involvement overseas. I’d like to think today we’re somewhere in between. Instead, we have collectively rallied together as a nation – and caught a case of amnesia.

Perpetual war and violence has become our new normal. Two articles I read recently highlight this: one by a retired general suggesting that there is no endpoint to the post-9/11 war, and another explaining that the devastation in Louisiana has received little attention because ratings show we’re more captivated by who the next President will be, rather than another story about death. News about war and violence have become just another news article to post on social media, a footnote in our lives rather than a reality that shakes it and turns it upside down. However, I don’t think it’s because the majority of us have become indifferent and apathetic. Perhaps the reality is so painful that instead, we push it completely out of our consciousness. When someone does bring it to the center of our community, the result is conversation often turns into a fight over ideology where fingers are pointed, lines are drawn, and a war of words ensues where no one wins.

It’s no wonder that we then get political about the pulpit.

We get political about what we say because we’re always measuring the effect our words will have on our hearers. A good number of pastors and preachers do this as a means of good pastoral care. Yet it’s a completely different thing when one weighs the effect in terms of personal risk and cost. One only has so much social capital they can draw from, and one divisive comment or topic from the pulpit can bankrupt you in a moment’s notice. Having amnesia ourselves as preachers becomes an enticing alternative when faced with prospect of addressing 9/11, the following war, and violence on a Sunday morning. A colleague posted on social media: “Just like the Sunday near Veterans Day or Memorial Day or July 4th, ignoring it [9/11] is a missed opportunity. Yet over-doing it risks the idolatry of patriotism masked as religious faith.” It’s a delicate line and the stakes are high for one’s ministry. What’s a preacher to do?

I ask you indulge me in a bit of testimony: as I sit here and write this, I realize that I have 15 years of service in the United States Navy as a Submariner and Chaplain. My whole Naval career has been spent at war, and I recognize I have classmates, shipmates, and friends who have died in combat, died in training, and live, but do so bearing scars and wounds both on the outside and within. It is a sobering reality, but I at least know this: it’s real.

What’s not so real to me is when I take off my uniform and join society around me. To see the rest of the nation living as if war and its effects don’t exist creates a tension that’s difficult to live in. From time to time I receive a “thank you for your service” or someone buys me a cup of coffee, but overall life outside the Navy feels odd, disconnected, artificial, and lonely. I suppose that’s why I’ve stuck around as a chaplain; because I think the best part of my day is when the service men and women who frequent my path share with great honesty their stories, struggles, and experiences. They share why they chose to serve – those reasons often connected to the events of September 11th, 2001 – and things  feel a bit more real for me.

And when I sit in the pew on Sunday, I need to hear more than just a petition in the prayers. I need to hear something from the pulpit, but not a word that romanticizes my military service as some sort of sacrificial act of Jesus-love. Nor do I need to hear a word that condemns the motivations and forces behind my military service as some sort of message of prophetic justice.

I need to hear about a God who is incarnate in the sobering reality of the last 15 years and likely the next 15 and beyond. I need to hear about a God who still comes to seek the lost and somehow is still present long after the fantasy of Eden vanishes from our sight. What I need to hear is that there is a community outside of the uniform I wear that doesn’t have amnesia when it comes to the reality of these last 15 years of war. I need preachers to be honest: both about the fact war and violence is a reality we can’t turn away from, and that it is a reality that God in Christ is fully present with us in.

That’s no easy thing for a preacher to do for reasons beyond just the politics of the pulpit. It would be easier for you to have amnesia that day. However, if there ever is a time to eschew the politics of preaching and to snap people out of their collective amnesia, this might be the Sunday to do it – from the pulpit. It’s likely people will be really listening….I know I will be.

The thoughts expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, or Navy Chaplain Corps in an official capacity. 

 

 

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Reflecting on Diversity & Orlando

“I am writing on my own behalf, and the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy or the Navy Chaplain Corps.” 

I attended my Synod’s annual assembly this past weekend. (For you non-churchy types, think Comicon meets TEDTalk) Since I’m no longer serving my congregations, I came primarily representing our Synod’s “Tapestry team” – a steering group focused and dedicated to the reality of and need for diversity and inclusion in the church. We presented to both the adults and the youth, and held a lunchtime discussion. During the course of the discussion, one person said, “I’m tired of all these conversations. I’m tired of just talking about how we want to be diverse and include others. We need to do SOMETHING, and we need to do something NOW.”

That statement is reflective of a plea that exists not just in our church, but also across the nation. The recent tragedy of the largest mass shooting in the United States has people demanding some action be taken now. If you’re connected to social media, just check your news feed or the top trending hashtag. People are tired of yet more tragic news. They are frustrated by the inaction of our institutions and leaders. And, they are voicing it – loudly.

So what do we do? Should we listen to political and social voices that have chimed in, and loudly, and to an extent, certain religious leaders have also done so? Should we act out of their calls for action?  I’m not so sure. If we think of our response as followers of Christ, I think our only response is this:

“I see you.”

I talked a lot this past weekend about the need to see and engage “diversity in context.” More often than not, we are great at seeing what looks, sounds, and lives like us. We retreat into the comfort of sameness when events happen that are such a departure from the routine of our lives. However, when that happens we – intentionally or unintentionally – put up blinders that prevent us from seeing those who are different from us. Those who differ in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and class, religious beliefs, gender, and age become invisible to us. We twist tragedy into something more palatable, rather than the gruesome truth it bears. When victims of marginalization and violence become invisible to us, we further marginalize and exclude them.

To see another is to acknowledge not just their existence, but also their very humanity. When we see people, we also see the reality of their lives, including the tragedy, injustice, and violence that exist in it. When we really see people in this way, I believe our hearts are so moved that we see Christ in them, and empathy becomes our response. In our empathy (not pity or sympathy, there is a difference) we begin to ask questions like,

“What does healing, justice, or reconciliation look like for you?”
“What do you want to happen?”
“What does this feel like for you?”

Saying “I see you” moves us from marginalizing the invisible to sharing their humanity, giving them a voice, and ultimately liberating them. Saying “I see you” is doing the work Christ calls his church – calls each of us – into. Whether we’re talking about the victims of the Orlando Shooting, the victim of rapist Brock Turner, or the diversity in our context, “seeing” is doing as Christ has done for us. If we make our default response mirror our political and social leaders, if we constantly keep responding with “this is what I think needs to happen” or make about some issue disconnected from the people and event, then we make this all about us, and not about those who have been marginalized. And even worse, it marginalizes and makes them even more invisible to us.

Jesus said, “I see you” to so many in his ministry: blind beggars, tax collectors in trees, and women at wells, to name a few. We know how that turned out! In being church and Christ-followers in the world, then let us continue this ministry that sees the unseen and refuses to push them further into the obscurity created by self-interest, agenda, and ideology. Let us say, “I see you” to those invisible in the world knowing that Jesus has seen us in our own baptisms, and continues to see us today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“What my brief Facebook exile taught me”

Well, it lasted about two weeks.  In that time, some very interesting responses from folks, and a couple good, honest conversations too.  I’m back on Facebook – probably to the satisfaction of some, and the annoyance and disdain of others.  I thought I’d share a few things from my exile – what it taught me.

  1.  Cutting myself off from my Fantasy Sports group was a major no-no.  We’re a group of pastors who have fun bantering back and forth about Fantasy Baseball & Football, ask for advice about ministry, support each other when things are hard, and of course, lots and lots of sarcasm and picking on each other.  My buddies were not happy that I disabled my Facebook account….it’s a lot like leaving your fraternity, I suppose.  (Although I despise fraternities; that’s who I spent my college days picking fights with on the weekends) At any rate, withholding my weekly comments picking on people, supporting my friends, and spreading rumors and “honeybadgering” people so they would trade with me withheld my fellowship with people I call friends.
  2. It gets annoying when your wife asks you repeatedly if you heard about the latest news about your friends…..news you could have only gotten on Facebook.  “Did you see that article?”  “Did you hear that such and such did this and that?”  No honey….that’s why I went off Facebook in the first place.  “Oh, that’s right.”  What you learn is you realize you’re missing out, at least on the good stuff.  The ridiculous stuff.  Call it a case of FOMO.
  3. Apparently Instagram and Twitter also think I should be back on Facebook.  Hell, half the stuff on Twitter I can’t see because it’s linked to Facebook posts.  And Instagram…..I can only handle so many selfies, pictures of pets and babies, and my wrestlers being the knuckleheads they are (wrestling season can’t get here soon enough)
  4. But I was happier…and more tuned into the actual world.  You start to realize that how much time you waste on Facebook daily.  And it was nice not seeing everyone post their favorite tabloid news source stories and comment on it as if it was a reliable news source that we should all be buying into.
  5. The battery on my phone lasts a whole lot longer.  ‘Nuff said.
  6. I had no way of getting hold of any of my Navy friends while I was up in DC this past week.  And I really wanted to go to that Washington Nationals game last Thursday…..

Ok, all humor aside, let me explain MY reasons for the self-imposed exile.  I didn’t like who I was becoming – I was ashamed of who I was becoming.  I think I just reached a point where I was interacting with everyone on Facebook in a way that I was ashamed of myself and my own conduct.  Because of that, I needed a break – for me.

That being said, I still hate the way we interact with each other in society today, whether it be social media, or even face-to-face interactions.  I wonder when did we became a bunch of people who cared more about being personally validated and dispensing a vigilante-style justice in the form of our words?  Maybe we’ve always been that way – the whole human sin thing – but it just seems worse than ever, and I have to believe it wasn’t always this way.

When we disagree or don’t understand another, when did we move from asking “Why did you say that?” or “What did you mean?” to “How dare you think that; you should be ashamed of yourself.” 

The wrestler in me recalls that you can only change what’s in the locus of your control.  I can change my behavior.  I can hold myself accountable.  I can ignore the toxic shit that people post and what comes out of their brains.  I can’t control anything outside of that.  And I can also remember my #1 view on life:

Life is a gift.

Considering how my life has turned out in this world, I should understand that better than most.  And perhaps I should be proclaiming and bearing witness more to that.  Life is a gift – that means there’s room for speaking on things like racial justice….but I should probably consider my volume and intensity when I do because some people can only handle so much.  It means I should focus on those moments where God uses me, where I get to do some amazing things and get to be with some amazing people.  As a good friend reminded me, “People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.”

It also means that I’ll still be that guy who pushes and challenges people out of comfort zones.  I’ll still insist that we need a world where people need to live with integrity, humility, honesty, and with conviction.  We still need to be people who remain vigilant in a world where too often horrible things happen and go unnoticed.  I’ll insist we need to be people of great courage and character, committed to actually working for what matters rather than just talking about it. I’ll insist…..because life is a gift.

I don’t know where you might be with the state of things today, but a social media exile can be a good thing – it just can’t last forever.  At some point, you have to join the human race again.  That’s true for all of us….even this curmudgeon of a Lutheran Honeybadger.

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Signs of the Apocalypse: A “Dislike” Button on Facebook is a Bad Idea

So apparently the day us normal people have been dreading is around the corner.

Facebook is working on adding a “dislike” button.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains that this is something people have been requesting for a long time, citing the example that people want an option when someone posts the death of a loved one.  That’s something people want to express their sadness and condolences, not “like it.”  Hence, a “dislike” button.

However, would it really work that way?  Writer and Filmmaker Jon Ronson suggests something to the contrary.  His TED Talk from June, “When online shaming spirals out of control” is well worth 17 minutes of your time to watch:

Jon Ronson TED Talk

Surveys and studies have been done over the past few years, chronicling the link between frequent social media use and higher rates of depression and suicide in teenagers and college students.

All this evidence is great, but here’s my greatest fear: in a time when our self-worth is already being eroded in way too many ways, can we afford yet another avenue for that to happen, and on the most widely used social media site in the world?  Of course, the “dislike” button itself is not the problem, rather it’s our all too sobering penchant to build up our own self-worth by degrading others.  We noble as Zuckerberg might think, and as good intentioned as we think we are, the truth is, when the chips are down, the majority of us would rather hit that dislike button so that people might know – we think they suck.

I wish I knew a way forward….having recently disabled my Facebook account, I can’t say that I’ve missed it all that much.  This news about a dislike button does in fact feel like a sign that the Apocalypse is coming; we just that much closer to destroying the humanity in each other and the humanity in ourselves.  Frankly, I don’t really have a whole lot to offer in the way of a solution or resolution.  I know we need to teach and advocate for more responsible and accountable use of social media from ourselves and each other…..but again, I just don’t think we’re all that good.  I know I’m not.

For now, I think it’s just enough to seriously take the time to think about the implications that when someone posts about a new job, a picture of a new haircut, numerous selfiies, “check-in” somewhere, and of course offer their social and political opinions….with the click of a button we can destroy those less resilient souls out there.  With the click of a button we can crush the life from those who are so starved for affirmation that they would be vulnerable enough to seek it in the toxic environment of social media.

A “dislike” button….it’s a bad idea.  Plain and simple.  And Lutheran HONEYBADGER’s Facebook exile will continue, for now.

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Looking for a Third Way – Saying Goodbye to Facebook

So I have to say goodbye to Facebook.

It culminated over the weekend, as yet another post from a good friend made my blood boil to the point I had to respond.  My better half (my wife) warned, “I’d leave it alone if I were you.”  But of course, I couldn’t.  Damage done.  Rant posted.  War of words continued over private message, and because of my anger, I probably lost a friend.

As I sit here and think about my anger and the aftermath, I realize there is something troubling about the rhetoric on Facebook these days.  It’s not just about sharing articles and information; it’s also accompanied by a suggestive narrative said in the name of “proclaiming justice” or “being prophetic” or “exposing the truth” or “calling out/naming sin.” The rhetoric, however, is a toxic one; it’s one without a whole lot of grace – especially for the other.  Apparently shaming is a justifiable way of enacting social, institutional change…..and a change of the heart.

And I just can’t buy into that.

For my friend, and others like him, there needs to be a higher sense of responsibility and accountability for what they say.  If you proclaim justice, for example – or at least the notion of Christian justice – it needs to be done with grace and a commitment to the other.  “Love your enemies” wasn’t just some cute thing that Jesus said.  He actually meant it, literally.

But, as I sit here and point the finger, I realize I have three others pointing back at me.  I realize that well, shit, I’m just as if not more guilty of saying things irresponsibly, not holding myself accountable.  So that’s why I’m saying goodbye to Facebook – because of my own sinfulness, I need to take a step back and figure out a better way.  I’d even say it’s vital – because it’s affecting me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I have to find a way to change my own rhetoric, for my own sake.

And that brings me to the other reason I’m saying goodbye to Facebook: I need to quiet my mind from the endless cackle of toxic voices.  I need to distance myself from the constant stream of venom that is the “justice” narrative in our country.  I need to take the time to listen – to others, to myself, and above all, to God.  I need to do this because I need to find a Third Way beyond the polarizing either/or categories that define our society and life these days.  Maybe instead of being the thundering prophet who speaks from on high, I need to simply strive to be a better man.  Maybe instead of always voicing what God is speaking into our issues and realities, I need to actually listen to what God has to say.

I need to look for this Third Way – God’s Way of how Grace redefines the ways we talk about and deal with the issues and realities of our world.

So goodbye Facebook….for now.  I don’t know when I’ll be back.  Some of my friends say the social media world still needs a good Lutheran Honeybadger…..but while Jesus loves this ass, being an ass all the time isn’t what God wants either.  


In the meantime, you should probably call/email/text if you need a little Honeybadger humor in your life.  That, I can do.

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The Beatitudes: Re-thinking Law Enforcement Officers & Race Relations

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I posted this picture on my Facebook account last week, which prompted a lot of pushback from a friend of mine who has worked as a police officer.  The topic of our conversation, like many I’ve had with friends and acquaintences that currently or have worked as police officers, is their objection to the idea that there exists a mass movement of police brutality toward African-Americans and other people of color across the country.  They object to the idea that every single person who puts on the uniform is taught a way of doing their job that prejudiced and biased towards people of color, and that the law unilaterally protects them so they are free to commit such acts.  My friend and many of the police officers I converse object to the idea that all cops are racist.

I would contend that perhaps the acts of violence themselves aren’t systemic, but the attitude of racial prejudice is systemic, but systemic in our society, not solely within the ranks of law enforcement officers.  I think that police, like most organizations, are a cross-section of society.  That means yes, racist folks exist within their organization.  But it also means that not all cops are racist. Yet, I do wonder if we have issues within law enforcement departments that work to protect and ignore the comments and actions of those who are racist, rather than hold them accountable for such attitudes and action.

However, my conversations with friends and acquaintances have me wondering where the gospel is for those who wear the badge when we talk about racism.  Where is the word of grace and reconciliation for them, just as it is offered for all people?

A mentor of mine, in our conversation about law enforcement officers and race, raised this thought to me: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  This verse from the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the passage known as the Beatitudes, is usually taught to us as God’s blessing on those who we deem peaceful – folks like Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, and the like.  Seldom do we think of folks like police officers, sheriffs and their deputies, or even military in such a way.  They carry weapons, they wear intimidating uniforms, they work for the very powers and empires that freely use violence in the name of keeping peace, right?

But when he said “peacemakers,” what if Jesus was talking about the Roman guards that were around them everyday?  What if Jesus was saying, “Those guys over there in uniform, who represent the empire you despise, yet keep the peace in a way that doesn’t abuse power, but rather serves and protects each of you?  Blessed are they…because they are children of God.  I’m including them as well.”  Maybe you object to that notion, but we know such people existed, because it’s right there in the Bible.  In chapter 7 of Luke’s gospel, there’s an account about a Roman Centurion whose daughter is sick, and the Jewish people appeal to Jesus to heal her on the grounds that “he is worthy for you to do this, for he loves our people.”  What if today, Jesus’ same blessing is for police officers today?

A member of my congregation, a police officer who serves in Norfolk, VA: “Pastor, so I was out the other day, and this little black kid comes up to me and strikes up a conversation.  I got out of my car and started talking with him, because I want him to trust me.  But then his mom comes up, snatches him away by the arm, and I hear her say, ‘You don’t ever talk to those people.’ Now how am I supposed to get past that attitude?  And isn’t she just making the problem worse?  I want the neighborhood I patrol to trust me, and I’m trying.”

Blessed are the peacemakers.

A former police officer shared this story, “Our department was going to arrest this kid who was ID’d at the scene of a crime.  The plan was to go in, full breach, because they feared he might run.  My partner spoke up and said, hey, my partner works that area, he knows these people.  After skepticism that it would work, I eventually got the go ahead to go to the house.  The mother let me in, even after I told her the news was bad and we had to arrest her son.  There was a pistol on his dresser, but because it was me, and we didn’t go in breaking their door down, we were able to avoid someone getting killed.”

Blessed are the peacemakers.

I wonder if there is a difference between “peacemakers” and “law enforcement,” not so much as what one does in their job, but instead as attitudes or postures one adopts as they look at their role and responsibility. Those who enforce the Law are suspicious, taking on a “guilty until proven innocent” posture.  They enforce the law as means of imposing the law with the goal to subdue.  Peacemakers look at their role differently.  They work to “serve and protect” the neighborhoods they patrol, and the law is a means to ensure people are kept safe, that peace is kept and maintained.  Peacemaking is a means to allow people to live freely, rather than a means of suppression and control.  Law Enforcement’s aim is to impose a way of life on people; peacemaking’s aim is to live life with people in community.

As much as I think we have an obligation to listen to the stories of people of color and the ways they are discriminated against, we also have an obligation to listen to those who wear the police uniform and strive to keep peace  We have that obligation because Jesus has mandated “blessed are the peacemakers” and they are children of God.  As the church, it is that status and identity that frames our relationships, and the Body of Christ and the prophetic proclamation of God’s justice – especially in the topic of race – suffers if we condemn or silence any one part of it.

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