By Elizabeth Lott
In Sunday’s sermon, I shared the following words with my congregation, St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church:
We are living in confusing times. We know of great violence and threats of violence. We are told by the 24-hour news cycle to be vigilant and greatly afraid. Depending on which 24-hour news cycle we access, we are told whom to fear. All tell us to fear neighbors who disagree with us and see them as the enemy. Fear the Right, fear the Left, fear the Muslim, fear the stranger, be suspicious, be prepared. They make their wealth on our fear, yet we continue to turn the channel on, check the web page, share the link.
On Friday, Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, addressed the student body with the offer of free concealed-carry courses on the University campus. He said, “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in…Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
Falwell has a large microphone in front of his voice, so The Washington Post has already reported his speech and social media outlets have responded feverishly. His are the words of a person of faith, a Christian educator, spoken to a majority Christian student body about how to respond to the fear and violence and tragedy in our world today. Rather than use my smaller microphone respond to the exact details of his speech, I just have a question about the essence of his comments from one faith leader to another: Is this the best we can imagine?
As people of faith, as followers of Jesus, as believers in the kingdom of God, as students of scripture, as practitioners of prayer, is the very best response we have to muster to the great fear and confusion of our world…just get ‘em first? Above all else, look out for yourself? Get them before they can get you? That’s the voice with which Christians are to cry out?
Perhaps there are too many voices at too many microphones on too many screens for us to hear the voice of God. Maybe there are some news sources and forms of media input that we need to silence. Maybe there are too many powers and principalities whispering to us of how the world should be. Maybe we have forgotten who we are if our imaginations grow so dull we only know the language of self-preservation and fighting back. Surely we have not altogether given up on Jesus Christ, the one whose name we bear, as the Prince of Peace!
Across the country, Christians are gathering in places of worship this month for the season of Advent. Over the next three weeks, we will hear the angels say, “Do not fear! I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people!” We will remind each other of our truth, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” If this season in the Church bears witness to the truth of God, surely it is to remind us that God is at work in our world in ways we have yet to fully imagine. “Preach peace,” Rev. Martha Spong proclaims, “Call it far away, but not impossible. Then work together to make it so.”
Chancellor of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., gestures at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)