I have finally found the words to say something Christian (cruciform and anastiform) about Tucson and Obama–but they are someone else’s words! They are a blog post for the religion page (I think) of a Kansas newspaper. The writer is Tim Suttle, a former student of my good friend Andy Johnson at Nazarene Seminary in Kansas City, and can be found here.
A couple of excerpts:
Cultivating a Christian response to tragic events such as those in Tucson can be tricky business. The emotions are immediate, of course. We feel pain, grief, even fear. We look at the pictures of the warm, vibrant 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green and wonder why this happened to her. We hear the story of how she was born on 9/11; her destiny, it seems, is to be given to the world and taken from it in the midst of national tragedy. Once the emotions begin to ebb, we move past them as we to try to make some sense of what has happened and formulate our response.
That those who were killed and wounded by the shooter were attempting to participate in the grassroots of American political discourse makes the Christian response even more challenging. We Christians struggle with our involvement in the political realm. Too often we conflate our ideology, be it liberal or conservative, with our faith, baptizing our political beliefs with Christian language and attacking those who disagree. Perhaps this is because we have not realized that our faith is itself a politic — a way of organizing our common life together — meant to transcend typical left-right distinctions. Our faith is meant to define the way we interact with the world, the way we meet all reality, even pain and death.
The most basic tenet of Christianity is that the future of God has broken into the present time through Jesus Christ. Thus we are not victims of the way things are, but we are now free to participate in God’s redemptive project. We may have limited capacities, but we have the ability to choose the future we wish to enact. Our response to tragedy cannot be one of cynicism, skepticism or despair. It must be the response of hope and healing. Our participation in the national discourse at this or any other time should not be infused with the rhetoric of the right or the left because this is not the future to which we are committed. Our words call into being a certain kind of future — one which transcends national politics. Embracing words that heal and eschewing words that wound is a Christian response.
That we are now becoming what we shall one day be eliminates the cynical Christian response. If we are cynical we will enjoin a world of cynicism. If we are skeptical we will no doubt engender a world of skepticism. When it comes to cynicism and despair, there are no victims; there are only willing accomplices. Christians can afford to be peaceful in a world with too much violence. We can be hopeful in a world with too much despair. It is a deeply Christian act to use words that heal, and healing needs all the words it can get.