Good morning, and welcome to Spokane Friends. I have shared this quote before but given peace as our topic today, I am going to share it again. It comes from Oscar Romero, who was the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador from 1977 until he was assassinated by his own government in 1980. He became the most powerful voice against poverty and government oppression in his country. He called for peace, and it cost him his life:
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.
Tell about the Alternatives to Violence Project workshop, which took place yesterday morning at Spokane Friends Church.
I’d like each of you to share a single highlight for you, which helped you get to know other people who are committed to peace.
One of the exercises they had us do involved four quadrants taped out on the floor. Each had a different sign in it, “violent and okay,” “violent and not okay,” “non violent and okay,” “non violent and not okay.” Then we were presented with a scenario such as “hunting a deer” or “spray painting over graffiti or racist imagery on public property.” We then moved to whichever quadrant we felt described the situation and debriefed a bit. For me personally it was a reminder that the meanings of peace and non-violence vary a great deal from person to person. As someone who believes that Christ calls us toward peace I was reminded that I need to always be open to understanding the perspective of others, so we can work toward peace together.
Soon afterward we discussed the concept of social contracts that we have with others, which in our context had a somewhat different definition. We were asked about whom we feel naturally defensive toward or nervous about being around. A social contract can sometimes mean “this is how I will feel when I’m around you.” Or, “ this is how we interact when we see each other.”
For example, is there someone in your life who naturally causes you to be frustrated, angry, or wanting to respond with violence? It doesn’t have to be physical violence but could be relational violence, violent words or thoughts. I know that personally I have people with whom my social contract causes me to be frustrated with them before they even say a single word to me. I would ask you to consider who you have social contracts with, and do you default to peace in those contracts?
I’m going to share a story from my life that I don’t believe anyone here except for Krista has heard, and it is an example in my own life of my own racism as I formed a social contract with an entire sub group of people. In 2008 I was home with my family in Central Oregon eating at my favorite Mexican restaurant, a place I had eaten at dozens of times. We were there with my mother, younger brother, and a German exchange student who was living with us at the time. We were eating and then suddenly two Hispanic men who had been talking with the person working the counter.
Tell the rest of the story how no one spoke to you afterward, ignored you, your sadness about humanity afterward, and your fear of Hispanic men that ensued. You created a social contract by which they caused you fear, and reminded you of violence. It was nothing less than racism and an inability of myself to not apply the actions of one person in a group to all people in that group.
It was my only personal experience with violence, and frankly it is a mild one compared to those experienced by others. The challenge for all of us as it pertains to being peacemakers is to not allow ourselves to have social contracts with others that cause us to fear them or think of them as lesser. Violence is often perpetrated when this happens. Christ constantly challenged the social contracts that people had established, especially when they condoned violence or seeing others as lesser. I’d like to share one such story.
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This woman unwittingly had a social contract with those around her that permitted them to do violence unto her because of her actions. Interestingly the man involved is not mentioned and nothing is said about his sin.
Jesus consistently challenged the social contracts of his time, those that said this person is lesser, this person deserves this action, this person is not worthy of love, etc. We as those who want to be peacemakers must do the same. Let us go forth in peace.
Benediction: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
This message was given by Jon Maroni at Spokane Friends Church on October 14, 2018