Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Soil of Peace

The convergence of three things has me pondering over my coffee this morning. Sitting on the breakfast table is this week's Time magazine, whose cover story addresses the issue of what's appropriate and inappropriate language for people who hold public positions to use, an issue at the forefront because of Don Imus' comments recently. Next to that sits the Seattle Times, whose front section is devoted almost entirely to the tragic killings yesterday at a university campus in Virginia. Meanwhile, my music brings up, randomly, the song by Rich Mullins, entitled Peace.

Hate language, killings, and an invitation to peace. Plenty of ink has already been spilled on behalf of Imus. More ink will flow in the coming days in response to the Virginia Tech killings. My questions regarding these two events have to do less with the events themselves and their causes (though that would be a topic worthy of discussion) than with the response that's been poured out.

With respect to Imus, I'm both encouraged and perplexed by the response. My encouragement stems from the fact that, finally, some corporate sponsors said, 'enough'. Whether their outrage was driven purely by market forces or by something higher, the fact is that public pressure has finally called someone to account for the degradation that had been dished up so callously for so long. My perplexity comes from the seemingly double standard that exists amongst public figures: if you rap, you can sprinkle n** and f** and b** so generously in your 'art' that if the words are censored, there's basically nothing left. The public reaction: you're a rock star - a multi-millionaire - you're immediately elevated to the status of 'cultural elite'. It's all yours, but only if the degradation is generic, and only if it's done in the name of art. Our presidential candidates who are Democrats have accepted millions in campaign donations from these 'artists' - and yet these candidate's voices were among the loudest calling for Imus' head. I understand that specific verbal abuse is worse than generic abuse, but I'd also suggest that what goes down in the name of 'art' (the rap hip/hop music so popular among suburban white teens) is creating a vast soil in which seeds of hate, prejudice, violence, and degradation will burst forth as inevitably as pumpkins in a pumpkin patch. The seeds have been sown - why are we surprised? I'm hoping that the shock and outrage extends beyond Imus - and that we'll decide: if artists are granted the freedom of speech to sow seeds of racism and violence, let's not be surprised when the fruit of such hatred begins to sprout. And maybe those candidates who decry Imus should rethink accepting all those dollars from 'artists' saying the very same things, not once, but through music which perpetually fills the airwaves and i-pods of America. If enough is enough, it should be enough on all counts.

And then there's the matter at Virginia Tech - it's too early to really know the profile of the person who did the shooting, but it seems important to ponder these observations:

1. We live in a culture where violence is often offered as solutions to problems - while this is seen many ways, it's seen most clearly in our tendency towards military solutions for problems (this isn't something new with the current president - Clinton, Bush I, Reagan - all had the same tendencies at times. The only one in recent history who didn't lean this way was Carter, and we all know what happened to him!)

2. Violence is a wildly popular form of entertainment in both the movies (have you seen the previews for the new Luke Wilson movie?), television (it won't be long until there's a CSI Bakersfield), and the video game industry.

3. Ours is a nation, in contrast to European culture, de-sensitized to violence. Europe, having spilled immense blood on it's own shores, has far less tolerance for violence in entertainment.

And here we are, surprised that someone's rage finds a violent means of expression. It's that soil thing again. We're creating a soil of violence. My shock and surprise isn't that this happened yesterday - rather, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more.

Meanwhile Rich Mullins sings about Peace. The thing we can do in the midst of the overwhelming presence of hate filled and violent soils is simple: we can sow the seeds of peace - we can do so by seeing each and every person we meet, including our enemies as those created in the image of God. We can do so by making a priority of reconciliation. We can do so by speaking out in defense of the least of these. We can do so by taking our own bitterness and rage to the cross, and there find not only forgiveness, but the capacity to forgive. The more we practice these profound habits, the richer will become the soil of peace and hope - and from that, a different crop will grow!

On this dark day... in these dark times - may we both know and BE His Peace!


At 18/4/07 21:52, Anonymous donte said...

A few years ago a friend gave me his favorite book--Wild at Heart. He told me that it was a book that had changed his life and it would most certainly do the same for me. I read Wild at Heat, but I did not share my friend’s enthusiasm for Eldredge’s famous work.

I thought it was thought provoking, but far from life changing. I am not a huge John Eldredge fan (many men are), but perhaps he offers some important insight on the topic at hand. Are men asking the fundamental questions—Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for? Do men long for a Battle to Fight, an Adventure to Live, and a Beauty to Rescue?

If Eldredge is correct, it is no wonder that many young men have turned to violence and other mediums through which it is bequeath. Violent video games, sadistic movies, and hip-hop music all offer culturally acceptable and fanciful views of masculinity.

If Eldredge is also correct in his assumption that most Christian men are really nice guys who are bored out of their minds, it’s no wonder that most youth prefer modeling masculinity from the likes of Snoop Dog as opposed to an elder in the church. Popular culture seems to be speaking to the souls of young men (albeit very poorly) in a way that the Church is not.


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