Friday, October 20 2023
Dear Ones of St. John’s,
I am sure I am not the only one among us who has been watching news from Israel and Palestine in dismay and horror. I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land when I was a transitional deacon, and it breaks my heart to think of the destruction taking place there now. This particular land, the birthplace of three world religions, is so very special. It is hard to watch it become, once again, the site of violence and war.
Since the conflict began a couple of weeks ago and the lines between Hamas and the Israeli military have been drawn, I have also noticed lines of conflict being drawn between many groups of people, in both conversation and on social media. It seems that many of us here, in the USA, also feel the need to pick a side, often in ways that attack or dehumanize those who disagree. All of this has me thinking about how difficult it seems to be for us to hold on to complexity. Our culture is one that constantly pushes us into binary thinking – that people are good or bad, right or wrong, friend or enemy. And yet, the reality of human life on earth is so much more complicated than that, is it not?
It is possible for both sides of a conflict to have legitimate grievances and commit moral and ethical harm. It is possible for people to be neither good or bad, but something in between. We know this because every single human who takes breath on this earth is both made in the image of God and destined to make choices that are not faithful to that image. Every one of us is vastly more than a binary. No person, and no conflict between persons, is ever that clean or easy.
I’m thinking about this because as we work through the important decisions, discussions, and issues that face St. John’s during this transition time, we will not be immune from this impulse toward binary thinking. There will be times when we want to categorize other people in the community or who used to be in the community as “good” or “bad.” We will want to find and make the “right” choices instead of the “wrong” ones. But friends, there are more than just two possible roads ahead of St. John’s. And remember, we worship a God who refused to be in a binary relationship with us. Our God chose to be both God and human, inviting us into relationships, choices, and possibilities that are so much bigger and so much more complicated than the duality offered to us by false binaries.
It is my hope that we can work together to build the skills we need as a community to hold complexity. I think it can begin by noticing when we are tempted to categorize ourselves or other people in simple this-or-that terms. Our world is full of complexity. Our God made it that way and called all of it good. Let’s work to reserve judgement and activate our curiosity instead, about what options we have for loving, living, and following Jesus when the binaries are collapsed.
I can’t wait to see you Sunday.
With care and gratitude,