When Our Words are Weaponized
Justice stands half-naked in the upper floor of a church in Copenhagen, Denmark. Peace poses beside her, in an equal state of disarray. Two statues tucked away into relative obscurity — nearly forgotten stones in a church, but they deliver a relevant message for us today. They state the tragically obvious; that justice and peace are missing from both our public dialogues and often from our sanctuaries. The first set of US Presidential debates revealed the lows that we have reached. Embattled in the destructive wars of words and ideologies, we are mobilized with a fear that leaves us deaf to one another. Can we hear? Will we hear? Because I have a stinking suspicion that hearing is an act of will. Jesus of Nazareth seemed to think so.
He who has ears, let him hear … -Jesus
Settled into a semi-circle of amazing 17-year-old European students of English, I ask an open-ended question. Thinking about the world right now, what are you most hopeful for or most concerned about? The first answer comes, Racism and homophobia. I watch 13 good Catholic heads nod in agreement. And what is the crux of their concern for the future? How the Church (global, not only Catholic, or only Protestant, or only Orthodox) is responding in ways that are unloving, unwelcoming, and lacking in hospitality to those who are different than us.
Church , at this moment in history, it’s more likely that our neighbors and our children see us as a weaponized body rather than a sanctuary for justice and peace. We are polarized, and encouraged to become even more so by politicians, the media, and the power-structures who boil words down into sound-bites for our consumption — sound-bites that weaponize us.
Recently, a friend wrote to accuse me of ‘a long line of leftist, feminist and divisive posts cloaked in religion and compassion’. This is a long-time friend — not an acquaintance, not a random person on my media feed. While I believe that this friend genuinely loves me, somehow, maybe just for a moment, I ceased to be the face of a friend and I became the enemy. We shoot at enemies, and I think this is especially true in our American culture. If I threaten your…