General Convention 2015 - Marriage Committee
Responding to Terror

Light Shining in the Dark of Terror, Advent Message 2015

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

This opening stanza of Yeats' The Second Coming always comes to my mind in Advent.  It is also an apt description of our current time.  He penned these words after the horrific First World War.  People had witnessed unspeakable horrors and an unprecedented amount of death.  WWI claimed over 15 million lives and the flu pandemic killed another 30-50 million people worldwide.  It was a time of profound loss and chaos.  While we are not experiencing death on such a scale, we are in the midst of a time of frightening chaos with increasing levels of horrible violence.   

I am writing this the day after 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, days after 2 were killed in a restaurant in South Sacramento, a week after 3 people were killed in an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs and three weeks after the coordinated terror attacks in Paris that killed 130.  There have been 351 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year.  These numbers are staggering.  The constant news of killings is frightening.  This is a terrifying time.  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world and seems to be growing and getting closer to home.  

There also seem to be few voices of hope.  Whatever conviction the best may posses, it is drowned out by the worst who are full of passionate intensity.  

As a Christian, there are a couple of things I think that are important for us to remember.  First, while this situation may be unique, it isn't new.  And it isn't the worst it has been.  We have been here before and we will be here again.  Evil will find a way to exert itself into our world.  Our job is to stay connected to the love of Christ as we respond to these forces of Evil.

Second, we need to remember our faith, that "We believe in God, the Father Almighty . . ." and "God's will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  This is certainly not a new situation for God.  I am not saying this to move us to inaction - to leave this in God's hands.  Rather I am saying this to reinforce the belief that love wins.  The bigger danger is not the shooters or terrorists, the bigger danger is we will give into our fears and sell our humanity for a greater sense of safety.  We must oppose evil without becoming evil.  That means we need to take responsible steps to combat gun violence and terrorism without scapegoating or terrorizing others.

Finally I want to point out that this is exactly the situation Christ came to influence.  The reason I always think of Yeats' poem in Advent is because Advent is a season of darkness.  The theme of Advent can be summarized, "The world is not OK, come Lord Jesus."  The world is not OK.  But that's just the prelude - the invitation for light to shine in darkness.  In this season we anticipate that light shining in the darkness of our own lives so we can become that light for others.

The way out of this time of violence is not fear and hatred.  The way out of this time of violence is through a child born in a manger.  Come Lord Jesus.