Once again, the item that was in my head has turned out to be starkly different than what I've chosen to write down. I was planning on writing a post today about why I think it's hypocritical that so many pistol-packing, "Christian" Zionist, neo-conservative, right-wing Christians are up in arms over the SNL sketch Djesus Uncrossed, a spoof of Quentin Tarantino's revenge fantasy movie "Django Unchained." The SNL sketch depicts Jesus blowing off the heads of his Roman enemies. I was even going to post a photo of a dead Palestinian child in Gaza, and then say something like, "If you're upset with me for raising a moral objection to children being blown to pieces by cluster bombs, then behold your Django Jesus," ending with a YouTube video of the offensive SNL sketch.
The point would have been obvious, at least to me. You can't raise a moral objection to something that you yourself practice -- namely, turning Jesus, our Lord and Savior and Prince of Peace, into a pistol-packing militant that hates your enemies as much as you do.
Here's the problem with the article I was intending to write: It would have communicated a giant #&^% YOU! to everyone in my faith community who doesn't think like I do.
I got gobsmacked today by an article in the Jakarta Globe entitled "Engaging Extremists is the Key to Peace."
In his excellent article, Indonesian author Sumanto Al Qurtuby tells the story of Rev. Paulus Hartono, an Indonesian Mennonite pastor that befriended the leaders of the militant Islamic extremist group Hizbollah (not the same Hizbollah as the group in Lebanon), and how the friendship resulted in lasting change in the community, even to the point of Islamic militant leaders working together with Christians to rebuild mosques and churches after the 2004 Tsunami that devastated the region. The article concludes with these words:
After years of collaboration and friendship, one day the commander suddenly sobbed. His tears dropped down moistening his cheeks. In front of Rev. Paulus Hartono, he said, or, perhaps more precisely, confessed: "When I reflect on what we have talked and done to you and Christians, and then I see and witness what you and Christians have reciprocated [with love and compassion], my heart has melted within me. Now, I have realized and discovered that you Christians are good infidels."
Their work for peace and humanity continues to this day.
This short story is a reminder that engaging extremists can be a fruitful way to boost interethnic or religious peace and integration. The peace-building pioneer John Paul Lederach reminds us: "One cannot build a bridge starting from the middle." This statement is a strong critique to those working for peace and dialogue who focus on strengthening moderates while neglecting extremists.
It is time to change our lens.
While the point of the article is that engaging extremists is more effective in terms of peacemaking than getting a bunch of moderates together to "dialogue," the article also provoked a different, yet related thought: Maybe I've been doing things wrong all these years.
In a lot of my writings -- including the beginning of this post -- I've been very critical of what I see as hypocritical un-Jesus-like character reflected in the evangelical community that I'm (reluctantly) a part of. My criticisms have often (understandably) provoked an angry response, especially from people I love and care about. I'm starting to think that maybe I could be a better advocate for evangelical peacemaking if I stop cursing the darkness and start shining the light. Instead of pointing out all the things that I see wrong in my community, maybe I should start showing the way by profiling the people that are doing it right.
The article mentions David Shenk, who I think is one of the most Christ-like evangelicals on the planet. I've seen David Shenk speak. I've also talked to him on a couple of occasions. Each and every interaction I've had with him has been nothing short of soul-stirring, and I think that's because the stories that David shares are usually positive examples of Christ-like Christians getting the message of the gospel right, and living it out before others.
Maybe that's what I should do.
Focus on the positive.
Focus on the people who get it right.
Inspire. Not condemn.
Gobsmacked moment over.
What do you think?
Is it better to let your community have it (I guess that's what Jesus did with the Pharisees, calling them broods of vipers and all), or is it better to tell positive stories to encourage the better angels inside?
Or is it both?