Last Monday I found out that the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is coming to Racine. When I went on their website to find out their reasons and their schedule, their angry, hate-filled, prejudiced statements and beliefs just had my blood boiling. I was ready to get out my Holy 2×4 and knock some proverbial sense into each one of them. I knew that their picketing needed to be met non-violently. calmly and with love, but inside I was screaming, “How dare you claim to be Christian! How dare you spread your hateful message and claim it is from God!! How dare you, you hypocrites, you whitewashed tombs, you snakes, you viper’s brood” (and suddenly I was breaking into Jesus’ words in scripture – Matthew 23 – in my head, which really rarely happens). All in all I was working into a good, rolling boil… justified… righteous…
(For the full audio version, click here.)
Then I have to start working on the sermon for yesterday. Peace (a topic chosen long before I knew about the WBC coming to Racine). Good. We need peace, especially in the face of these crazy people spreading hate and fear. Then I read St. Francis: “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”
And I read Henri Nouwen quoting other passages by Jesus: “’Love your enemy, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.’
Then Nouwen goes on to assert that this is the test for peacemakers… not to return anger for anger or violence for violence, but to rise above that, lest the “peacemaker [be] ravaged by the same anger, resentment, and violence that lead to war.” To truly work for peace and know peace in our lives, we must work on coming from a place of peace.
Got me. Could I do that? Could I, and can I, ground myself enough in God’s love, so as to go into the world leading with that foot forward and not the foot that wants to kick someone’s ass?
And then I was on to our scripture reading, Psalm 85. The Psalmist says, “Yahweh, we are listening to your voice, a voice that speaks of peace for your people… so long as they don’t return to their folly!” At first glance that sounds like a threat, but isn’t it true? It is people’s folly that lead them (us) out of peace and into conflict and war. It is people’s need to oppress, to have power, to be right, to have more stuff, more land, more money.
So, I took a step back, took a deep breath, and remembered that I want to feel calm and peaceful inside, not like I had a raging dragon about to burst forth. It helped… some. It’s hard. Some anger at the WBC was, and is, probably justified on my part and may have been a great motivator to get me out counter-protesting last night. But if I have to hang my hat on that to motivate me to make a difference, I’ve let my own inner peace go out the window. Plus, I am no better than them if I am doing something because I’m angry and hateful. Jesus calls us to the hard task of living out of love.
And so once again the spiritual journey distills into bringing harmony to our inner and outer selves. We will more readily be peace when we know peace within, which means we need to work on that within ourselves which keeps us from having internal peace – guilt, abandonment issues, abuse issues, fear, anger. Sometimes it even means going to therapy to seek healing which leads to inner peace.
And, on that note, I will simply encourage you to be honest with yourself (as I was with myself this week, hard as that is) about your level of inner peace. Then do what needs to be done to increase and cultivate that, so that more and more peace might spread to people around you and ripple outward through the world.