America has a strange relationship with faith. When we hear “Islam,” many people immediately pair it with “extremism.” When we hear “Christian,” many people think “right wing." For those of us in the faith community, our friends may look at us with some confusion. I get it. If I am a person of faith, doesn’t that mean I don’t believe in evolution or global warming, and that I think gay people are going to hell? If I’m a Christian, doesn’t that mean I hate LGBT people?
Some do. I can’t speak for them. I’ll just speak for the rest of us.
The rest of us believe in science, and technology, as long as they improve the human condition and make earth a better place to live. The rest of us believe in equal rights for all, including our LGBT brothers and sisters, and including our brothers and sisters of other faiths.
The rest of us are pacifists, because Jesus wouldn’t raise a hand in violence even to save his own life. When people fought on his behalf, he rebuked them.
The rest of us seek peace and wisdom in our own lives, and work every day to raise our children with compassion. We have high hopes for our children - to be better than we are, and to treat other human beings with dignity, grace, empathy, and genuine love.
Some Christians advocate violence. Some Christians defend the second amendment, shunning the statistics, arguing with people in the wake of every atrocious mass shooting. Some Christians defend the excesses of billionaires and vilify the poor.
The rest of us practice nonviolence, and pray for equality and compassion and safety and kindness to reign in this world. Guns don't defend us. God defends us. We look people in the eye and treat them with honesty and kindness. We donate to charity, and volunteer our time, and work to heal the sick, clothe the naked, and protect the innocent. We stand in solidarity with the poor and in opposition to the rich, because that's the Biblical precedent. And it's moral.
The rest of us are not aligned with American militarism or corporate capitalism. We believe human life is sacred, and the earth is sacred. Destroying either is unacceptable.
My father is a Navy veteran. Represented in my friends and family are all branches of the military, some active and some retired. I understand that some people are willing to fight, kill, and die for “the mission.” Others work in other ways to support “the mission.” I pass no judgment on them. Their relationship with God is their own.
Some people say “freedom isn’t free.” Our country needed a civil war, after all, to free the slaves. I believe this is both true and not true. Martin Luther King killed no one. Frederick Douglass killed no one. Gandhi killed no one. Jesus killed no one. Thich Nhat Hanh killed no one. The Buddha, and Pete Seeger, and Mohammed Ali, and Thurgood Marshall, and Harriet Tubman, and Florence Nightingale killed no one.
Freedom is granted by God, not by warfare.
They tell me that you cannot just be kind to others. The world is too dangerous, or too scary, or too violent, they say. I ask them if they have ever tried. They haven't.
We are quieter than they, but we are much, much more numerous. We surround you every day, working in hospitals and schools and homeless shelters. We are in soup kitchens and hospice care and bookstores and classrooms. Most of us are not in high places, because ascending to high places requires a kind of self-importance that is counter to our faith.
They are loud, but we are powerful.
They are on television, but we are in your lives.
They are pointing fingers, but we are reaching out our hands.
We are more powerful than their drone strikes and assault weapons and bigotry and violence.
We are unstoppable, and faithful, and free.