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We Can React, or We Can Respond

     Some people are looking around the United States today and seeing, “a new level of division” in society. This perspective, though heart-felt and emotionally honest, is not historically informed. The United States in the 1950’s was in a state of legal apartheid under Jim Crow, and the United States in the 1860’s was in a state of civil war. Feminist movement in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s upended normative gender roles and expectations for the lives of women. Every generation has believed that it was experiencing “the end of days”; as people become more aware of the suffering of others, the world appears to become a less safe, less just, less loving place.

     If we choose to react to these feelings of fear, or anger, or hopelessness, we subsequently allow all of our actions to in fact be reactions to our experiences/understandings of oppression and violence. We allow abuse and hate to define our actions. In essence, we relinquish our responsibility for creating the world we want. In turn, we allow the world to be defined by narrow self-interests, and our work ends up serving to address our feelings rather than the circumstances which produced them.

     If you have attended one of my Bystander Intervention Workshops, you know that when we are triggered (angry, anxious, fearful, etc.) our critical-thinking brain center receives less blood than our self-preservation brain center. This means that when we are triggered, we are physically less capable of making rational decisions and using moral reasoning. Subsequently, we are more likely to escalate a situation than we are to de-escalate, which leads to less safety, less justice, and less compassion.

     No, instead of reacting, we need to respond. And responding requires a level of discipline and focus that reaction does not. Fortunately, we have a powerful resource for this work: our faith.  People of faith are people who have decided to trust in God, even when we are outraged, uncertain, or afraid. Trusting in God does not mean washing our hands of the pain and injustice of the world; in fact, trusting in God is quite the opposite. Trusting in God means acting for God’s Kin(g)dom in the face of injustice, pushing forward with God’s desire for peace and wholeness, for inclusion and freedom, regardless of the obstacles in front of us.

     In order to use this powerful resource, we must first develop it in ourselves. This month, we will focus on “Getting Knit Together”. In August, we talked about the power of belonging and how what we belong to shapes our lives. This month, we will discuss practical strategies for deepening our trust in God, strengthening our relationships with one another, and re-shaping God’s church to be a force for response rather than reaction. God has given us the keys; what we loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven, and what we bind together down here will be bound together in eternity. In short, what we do down here, right now, it matters. If God has given us the keys, what are we going to do with them?

In Peace and With Love,

Pastor Andrew