In my earlier post, I noted that Brian D. McLaren's new book makes some choices about how to organize and present what he perceives as the world's biggest problems, attempting to hone them down to 3 core causes or systems. In this last post in a series of 3, I want to briefly review what McLaren refers to as the security system.
Right now, do you feel secure ? Did you lock the doors ? Did your turn off the oven ? Is there money in your bank account ? Food in your kitchen ? Water to drink ?
If you are like me, then you are reading this on the web or iyou answered yes to any of the questions above, then we all are located far outside of what McLaren is describing when he writes about the security system. In this book, McLaren frames a gnawing realization that seems at the heart of what many refer to as the global village, a place where:
“the resentment of the poor majority intensifies other conflicts…in response, the rich minority seeks to create order & defend itself “
It seems demeaning to try to locate this in one place only, as if one struggle or battle can portray the dominoes falling or the powerful elite rushing in to re-set the dominoes. That said, there are two struggles - one local, one thousands of miles away - that get at the crisis that McLaren is describing in his book.
A Local Security Crisis
400 miles east of my house is a small town of about 5,000 people. They have a high school, where about 10% of enrolled students are black and more than 85% are white. At a school assembly a year ago, a a black male freshman student asked the principal whether he could sit under the "white tree" - the white principal answered that the student could sit wherever he wanted. The following morning, nooses were discovered hanging from the tree. After an investigation, there appeared to be no public accountability. with the school superintendent saying "Adolescents play pranks. I don't think it was a threat against anybody. On July 31, 2007 — eleven months after the noose incident — the school had the tree cut down.
This incident added fuel to a fire that continues to rage, despite our pride in saying "look at how far we've come". On December 4, 2006, 17-year-old Justin Barker, a white Jena High School student, was assaulted at school. He was struck in the head by a black student, knocking him unconscious. A group of black students then repeatedly kicked him. Just day before this assault, there were two other incidents of violence at private functions. The police arrested the six students, eventually dubbed the "Jena Six", accused of the attack, charging them with attempted second-degree murder. A six-member all-white jury found one of the "Jena Six" guilty, and he faced the possibility of up to 22 years in prison. After being incarcerated for almost 10 months, this 16 year-old had his conviction set aside.
The Jena Six case has sparked protests, in Jena and elsewhere, by those who believe that the arrests and the subsequent charges were excessive and racially discriminatory, alleging a lack of arrests and serious charges against white youths in Jena in earlier incidents in the town--there had been a number of racially charged incidents.
Here is a video that was done recently on this security crisis:
A Far Away Security Crisis
Anti-government protests started in Burma, the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia, on August 15, 2007. The Burmese military has dominated government since General Ne Win led a coup in 1962 that toppled the civilian government of U Nu.
Thousands of Buddhist monks started leading protests on September 18, and were joined by Buddhist nuns on September 23. On September 24, 20,000 monks and nuns led 30,000 people in a protest march from the golden Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, past the offices of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Comedian Zaganar and star Kyaw Thu brought food and water to the monks. On September 22, monks marched to greet Aung San Suu Kyi, a peace activist who has been under house arrest since 1990. On September 25, 2,000 people defied threats from Burma's junta and marched to Shwedagon Pagoda amid army trucks and warning of Brigadier-General Thura Myint Maung not to violate Buddhist "rules and regulations.
As of October 2, thousands of monks are unaccounted for and their whereabouts unknown. Many monasteries are being patrolled by government troops. There are eyewitness accounts of injured protesters being burned alive by the military regime in a crematorium on the outskirts of Rangoon.
I have chosen to spotlight two instances where an disenfranchised majority takes action, met by the power of a small minority whose focus is to remind the majority of their "proper place" - the back of the bus, away from the cameras, working in factories, housed in shacks and dis-carded trash.
Given this crisis in the equity system, McLaren does not suggest that Jesus calls us to take up arms or wallow in guilt. Instead, he suggests that Jesus calls us:
“to be active peacemakers who respond to our enemies through love & service, not victors who react with revenge or pre-emptive violence “
I mentioned in an earlier post that McLaren's book is explosive - his discussion of the crisis in this system is where I sense folks will shut the book. We've "come to Jesus" on poverty, we are getting there on "climate change" (but it isn't our fault !), but you'll have to pry my security system out of my dead, cold hands. The central job of my government - my prime responsibility as an adult - is to conjure security, to protect my own - AT ALL COSTS.
It is telling (at least for me) that we humans can not get enough books and movies about the myth of redemptive violence, going all the way back to the Enûma Elish, nowadays to your local movie theater with films like The Brave One and Death Sentence. Earlier this week, when people all around the globe marked a Day of Non-Violence, how many of us even knew of it's existence ? Outbreaks of the type of peacemaking that McLaren describes can set even the most jaded newsreader to understand more deeply the meaning of Jesus taking flesh and walking among us.
At the core of McLaren's new book is an invitation that he returns to, like a jazz player coming back to a riff or a painter giving herself over to a stroke of the brush. That invitation is to join a revolution of hope:
“one that offers good news for both the living and dying, that speaks of God’s grace at work both in this life and the life to come, that speaks both to individuals and to societies and to the planet as a whole”
If we choose to join this revolution of hope, then working to answer the crisis in the security system is just as natural as the mission trip or the ribbons we wear to support our troops, all of it part and parcel of re-membering the message, ministry, teachings & the acts of Jesus.