While the Capitol cleaning staff was sweeping up glass and debris, there were the expected calls for national healing and reconciliation. It was time to bridge the political and social divides, we heard.
Some voices were well intentioned, even hopeful and perhaps a bit comforting. Others were political ploys failingly designed to cover one’s own clear contributions to blowing up bridges.
We tend to be “quick fix” people – especially when we’re the ones who need some fixing. We want to forget and move on while avoiding both the consequences of our actions and the hard work of truly righting a wrongful course.
In church, we’ve even devised a quick-fix “plan of salvation,” which gets people “right with God” instantaneously and then sends them off to be and do whatever they want with little to no regard for the ongoing and challenging call to follow Jesus.
Were that not the case, we wouldn’t have seen so many identifying “Christian” signs and symbols among the hostile crowd that broke through security barriers and brought destruction, even death, by their fact-less, conspiracy-fueled outrage and unbridled devotion to an amoral political leader who egged them on.
The biblical story (or really, stories) is replete with conflict, chaos and division. We find it right up front in the poetic telling of creation, which quickly becomes a story of broken relationships.
Anyone who has read through the Bible knows it doesn’t stop there. It goes on and on.
However, God is shown to be quite interested and active in bringing healing to broken people in broken places. The whole concept of salvation – when understood as wholeness rather than escapism – works for that purpose. But it always requires more than most us want to invest of ourselves.
Church historian Walter B. Shurden, who is retired from Mercer University, and I have shared quite a few lunches over the years. During one meal, he mentioned he was reading through a modern-language translation of the gospels during Lent.
He had just finished reading the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke), he said, and was about to read the later-written Gospel of John.
Curiously, I asked what he had seen in his readings this time around that perhaps had not dawned upon him through all the many readings of the gospels throughout his lifetime.
He paused to reflect for a moment, and then replied, “That if you remove the conflict there is not much left.”
Then, after another brief pause, he added, “And if you remove the conflict and the healing there is nothing left.”
Getting from conflict to healing, therefore, would be central to the calling of those who hold to a Christ-centered, biblical faith. Yet the Bible – as well as our many personal experiences – reveals that the routes to righting relationships require honest engagement and are often long and bumpy.
We can’t leapfrog from an uncomfortable moment with pious words, empty excuses and generalized blame that suggests no one is ever responsible.
Ignoring (while advancing) injustice, falsehoods, abuse and violence is not a rightful course toward peace; it is participation in evil.
Pretending that every stated “value” has equal value doesn’t create harmony. Truth really does matter.
False equivalencies – impulsively blaming “both sides,” or deflecting quickly with “but what about?” diversions – are merely avoidance mechanisms employed to keep us from the kind of honesty that is a prerequisite to reconciliation.
Because each of us controls just one life, that inward look is what deserves our fullest attention. It is where the most constructive work can occur – unless some of you have had more success than I with social media conversion.
Perhaps the lyrics sound a bit naïve or idealistic, but it is instructive – when seeking reconciliation and peace – to pray “and let it begin in me.”
Yet again, we need the reminder of the prophetic editor Walker Knight’s famed words that “Peace, like war is waged.”
We can’t simply declare peace and harmony by ignoring that which has brought about conflict and injustice. Reconciliation requires honest confession, strategic planning and purposeful implementation.
Then there’s the need to build (or rebuild) trust, which is always the hardest foundation to construct. Trust and truth share more than just some common letters.
Jesus, to my knowledge, never called for quick-fix harmony apart from compassion and inclusion nor attempted some kind of pseudo-reconciliation that ignored the causes of conflict and left wounds wide open.
Somewhere, long ago, I read the wry advice, “Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.”
Equally dangerous – and perhaps with more lasting pain – are our weak attempts to leapfrog over the required work of confession, truth-telling and reparations that bridge broken relationships both human and divine.
Looking for easier routes simply leaves us stranded and divided.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.