I took last week off from blogging to celebrate my birthday. We ate, laughed and drank with friends. It was really, really good.
There is something you grow to accept when you have a birthday on the “13th” of a month. Every once in a while, it lands on a Friday.
Superstitions, fears, and conspiracy stories about boogie men come flying from all corners as well as every joke imaginable about the Jason movies.
I’ve come to accept it.
As we arrived at a friend’s house, there was a different feeling in the air.
Did you hear what happened in Paris?
I had not.
Downcast eyes turned to phones, news outlets, and running tickers to pick up news as it came through.
We had spent Thanksgiving of 2012 in Paris, a blessing and a gift from family members. They spoke of streets and buildings I knew well.
Streets older that the country I live in, but younger than the hate that terrorized them.
I tried to process as best I could, being far away. Being a pastor, the question regarding other religions always burn hotter when they arrive at my doorstep. We turn to assumptions, we turn to generalizations and what Christena Cleveland calls “outgroup homogeneity” - in other words, if "they’re" not like me then "they" are ALL like this:
Every Muslim is a terrorist.
Every Syrian is a muslim.
Every refugee is a Syrian.
A + B = C
Cue the political rhetoric and the stump speeches.
Cue the governors.
The cycle continues.
But then again, I was born on the 13th. So were these terrorists. I found hope and faith in my life. So have these terrorists.
I have family that loves me, cares about my heart and soul and walking around, and so (I’m assuming) do these terrorists.
The distance between two people born and living in the same world is directly related to the wounding of their hearts.
When you’re wounded by oppression, by religious texts turned acidic, and the social expectations of an oppressed world...
When you’re wounded by simple pains, in comparison, but live comfortably distant from poverty and lack...
Into the midst of all this, we start looking towards Advent. A baby, soon to be born, enters into a world filled with oppression and religious texts that have become rigid and unbearable.
He is born into an oppressive empire, looking only for their own domination and through any means necessary. They call it peace - the pax Romana - but that depends on who you ask.
He’s born, and He says “My father causes the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous.” Crops grow regardless of the wounds in your heart and the evil of your actions, that’s not how the world works.
Jesus lives and teaches and brings hope to those who are wounded, broken, angry, and violent.
And then He dies.
On a Friday, nonetheless.
Probably the 13th, I’m guessing.
The greatest thing we can do at this moment is love - love hard, love with fury and anger and disappointment, love the refugee and the citizen, love those who hate us back, love those who have no idea they’re being loved which is part of the problem, love when it seems senseless and love when it makes sense. Love our neighbors. Love our enemies. Love our enemy’s neighbor and our neighbor’s enemy.
Let it be the first thought when the news says “Hate” - “fear” - “Them” - “They"
Let it be the first thought when there isn’t a first thought.
Let it be the first thought when we listen to political rhetoric.
Let it always, always be the first thought.
It never fails. It always protects, hopes and perseveres.
Because we are all born here together. And in the words of W.H. Auden, “We either love one another or die."
Even if it’s Friday the 13th.