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The Resistance Prays

November 4, 2018
By Rev. Darcie Jones

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Today's Top Story
As President Trump continues to dispense racist and hateful rhetoric during rallies and through new propaganda commercials, hate groups are becoming more emboldened with their evil message. USA TODAY reports, “An increase in hate crimes in the country’s 10 largest cities, a nearly 60 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents over the past year, a doubling in the number of white supremacist murders in 2017 and a growth in the number of hate groups, especially among the white supremacist movement.” But, the situation is not hopeless. USA TODAY shares the story of one man’s turn away from the KKK and white supremacist groups.  
Luke 6:27-36 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Two years ago as CNN declared Trump the next president of the United States, I called my dad and asked, “Why do so many people hate each other?” It felt as if love had lost that night. But, a fire was lit in many hearts as we literally took to the streets, phones, and mailboxes to declare that love will not be deterred or extinguished. The hope of many was to convince people who voted for Trump out of self-interest, fear, or hate to see that there is a better way. 

Honestly, I am so enraged at times that I want to lash out and scream against all the injustices of this world. While there is a place for that (table-flipping is a part of our faith history), I find myself particularly challenged by the above USA TODAY article where Deeyah Khan, the Muslim filmmaker who was an integral part of the former KKK member’s conversion, describes what brought her to this place, “Khan, who says she had previously tried to combat fascism with angry demonstrations and in-your-face retorts, described her approach as a necessary way to retain her own humanity.

‘I don't believe it's the job of minorities to reform racists or to have to engage with their abusers,’ said Khan. ‘When we're confronted with people who hold such ugly views, who act out in such horrible and violent ways, it's hard to hold onto your own humanity. But I refuse to become like them.’"

Gregory Boyle, an ordained Jesuit priest, shares a similar message. He founded an organization called Homeboy Industries to help people involved in gang life find a better life. In his book Barking to the Choir, he shares what he has learned about convincing people to care about former gang members, “their enemies”: 

“I’ve learned from giving thousands of talks that you never appeal to the conscience of your audience but, rather, introduce them to their own goodness. I remember, in my earliest days, that I used to be so angry. In talks, in op-ed pieces, in radio interviews, I shook my fist a lot. My speeches would rail against indifference and how the young men and women I buried seemed to matter less in the world than other lives. I eventually learned that shaking one’s fist at something doesn’t change it. Only love gets fists to open. Only love leads to a conjuring of kinship within reach of the actual lives we live.”

I have to believe that this is what Jesus was getting at in the Luke scripture. We are called to love all people, even our enemies, because our humanity and their humanity are at stake. We cannot forget who we are and that our goal is to foster a kinship between all God’s people. We are called to pray for our enemies, but we cannot pray with clenched fists. 

Let us be clear that this is not an invitation to water-down Jesus’ message of full inclusion and unconditional love for the most vulnerable in our society. This is not an opportunity for us to remain silent in the presence of hateful rhetoric that continues to plague our society. We cannot become complacent or apathetic. However, this is a call to evaluate if our means are getting us to our ends. Is our message able to be heard? Are we ultimately pushing people further away from us? Are we resisting in love?
Look over your social media and reflect on your past conversations with fresh eyes. Are your fists clenched ready to fight or hands open ready to receive them when they seek a new way? Are you accomplishing the end goal of helping people to love others better, more like Christ?
Gracious God, help us not to compromise your message of love for all people. May we not fall into complacency, but continue the work of Jesus Christ to bring the outsider in. Embolden us in love to speak out and reach out, ever-increasing those who seek to love and serve you. Amen.   
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