Today is April 16, 2013, just one day after the explosions at the Boston Marathon. Today is also the day I was supposed to attend a conference on responding to trauma. But instead I am sick at home, the cold I’ve been fighting for over a week finally having knocked me on my well-padded behind. If I had taken better care of myself when the cold first arrived, it would probably be gone by now. But based on how often I repeat this same mistake, apparently I am incapable of learning this lesson.
Anyway, between naps and reading about the tragedy in Boston, I read my parishioners’ Facebook posts with more attention than usual. One of my people posted a request yesterday that everyone please be careful what they repost, as so much false information was being repeated. In response, a friend of his commented that some media outlets are so intent on being first with the news that they don’t check the accuracy before reporting. Then he wrote, “I don’t want the first. I want the truth!”
Well, that’s what he meant to say. But one little typo–one tiny missing letter–changed his intended meaning. Instead of “I don’t want the first,” he wrote “I don’t want the fist.”
I don’t want the fist, either. I don’t want the violence. I am sick of the cruelty and the carnage. I am sick of funerals for six-year-olds. I am sick of helping my eleven-year-old think through how she would react in such an attack. Yesterday she asked if we would be mad at her if she gave her life to save a friend. I wanted to scream “Yes!” But I couldn’t.
I don’t want the fist. I don’t want the violence. And I dread the violent response. It is too soon for us to know who perpetrated this act, whether it was domestic or international, whether it was an individual or a group. I find myself praying it was one person, so that our thirst for revenge will be limited. I find myself hoping this one person is white, heterosexual, and either non-religious or even–I’m sorry–call himself a Christian, so that we will not use this as an opportunity to target people of color or gays or Muslims or anyone else we want a reason to hate.
I don’t want the fist. I want the truth. And truth will not come through the fist. It never does. Facts may, but not truth. Truth is far too powerful for that.
At this point you’re probably expecting a “Love wins” message. And frankly, I’m tempted. But my friend and colleague, Rev. John Gage, pastor of the United Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut, had this to say today:
[It’s] not that I don’t appreciate all the “love wins… eventually” posts going up in the wake of yesterday’s bombing. Hell, I posted one myself a bit earlier. But, honestly: No, it doesn’t–not unless we make that happen. Love doesn’t just spontaneously appear out of thin air. Love has to have hands and feet. Love needs wisdom and the courage to act now… and now… and now to root out the hate, not with the sword, but with the ploughshare. Far-sighted faith in love’s eventual victory may sustain us in low moments, but love doesn’t actually grow unless we plant it and tend it and defend it at every opportunity. Love is a garden, not a given.
I don’t want the fist. I want the truth. I want the love garden we all tend.
I pray that this is a lesson we are capable of learning.