Reconciliation and People of Peace
Several years ago I was urged to foster a certain characteristic which has stuck with me (well, the call has stuck with me, I’m not sure whether the characteristic is something which I achieved yet or not). An older (than me) and wiser (than me) mentor in ministry said, “Bret, you need to strive to become a non-anxious presence.” Looking back on that period of my life I believe that was certainly the case and that admonition has been one that I find myself returning to on a regular basis.
When tempers are flaring, does my presence add to or alleviate the drama? Do my words tend to calm those who are upset or upset those who are struggling to remain calm? Does my body language invite others to take a deep breath or push them to hold their breath?
I am a somewhat opinionated and admittedly stubborn person. I feel strongly and people don’t usually have to wonder about what it is I feel so strongly. Is it even possible for me to be this non-anxious presence and also remain a passionate person?
I think it is, though I admit I’m unsure as to how well it’s going for me!
My brother, Adam Wells is also very interested in the concept of peace and reconciliation. This past year (during his 1st senior year as a domestic missions major at ACU) he began to develop a reputation as a person of peace. He served as the chaplain for the Student Peace Alliance…which apparently turned out to be less concerned with substantial work toward peace and reconciliation as it was a gathering place for neo-hippies…
He’s now been approached by the officers and leadership of another group on campus and asked to serve as chaplain for them next year. This time he’s already had the opportunity to engage with this group and knows that there is a desire (at least among some) to participate in real healing and reconciliation on campus. It is going to be difficult but I think the very fact that he’s been asked to join them is both a testament to his presence and maturity and the seriousness of this group.
This club, Essence of Ebony, was founded by a group of concerned students who wanted to provide aspects of African American culture through a black history program. Particularly for racial reconciliation, awareness is an important first step – as was the recent apology on behalf of the University made by President Royce Money for the racial injustices which ACU was a part of. However, there is a growing recognition, which Adam shares, that in order for reconciliation to take place, these first steps cannot be treated as the end goal. Awareness and apologies set the stage for reconciliation – they are not themselves the full expression.
For reconciliation to truly take place, both groups (or however many groups are involved) must be willing to work toward a new future. I’m sure that different people have different perspectives on this, but from what I witnessed while a student at ACU, this understanding of reconciliation has not been the express goal of Essence of Ebony.
My prayer is that my brother and the leadership of EOE will be able to make some legitimate strides toward reconciliation on campus, which will hopefully set the stage for individuals and groups to impact their congregations and communities. The following is a poem that Adam wrote as one of his final projects this semester – I believe it’s intended as an oral piece…so read it out loud if you can! I’d like to say a few things about the theological implications, but I think I’ll wait until folks have had a chance to read the words themselves.
Maybe I can coerce my brother out of summer-vacation mode and engage him in some conversation on this…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
He made man in his image and gave him his breath
And there in the garden they thrived together,
Naked blissful ignorance in utopia forever.
And he gave man a partner
So he wouldn’t grow lonely
And he said she was good, and she was good and oh how good she was
Man grew away from God and close to her because OH HOW GOOD SHE WAS!
Then one day they shared an apple
And they were out as sin came in
Curiosity killed the cat
And that’s all there is to say about that.
So they worked hard and toiled the land
Fought with snakes and gave birth in pain
You all know the famous fable
But then it got dark when Cane killed Able.
And that’s what I want to talk about
I want to tell you a story throughout time
Sit back relax and listen as I spit to you these rhymes.
Germanic tribes roaming south and taking over
The warrior king from the north, raping and pillaging
Hustling through the land of my people
Not hesitating for family or steeple.
So they took what was there
It was all at their disposal
Reach out your hand it take what you desire
When you’re the strongest you get what you require
Be it respect or be it cash money
Or be it maybe even both
Kill them if they oppose or deny you
You’re bigger than them, don’t let them defy you.
And you can rule this land for a little glimpse of time
But be weary of the next great power
That’s chomping at the bit to take over
Take your mind off your goal for just a minute and they’re here
All the sudden you find reality in that which you always feared.
Somebody else is stronger
And you are no longer the biggest
Somebody else it taking over,
Because you’re no longer the fittest.
Although Darwin hadn’t said it yet
And you don’t know who he was
He was right and you understand, this
It’s a dog eat dog world and its survival of the fittest.
So the tribes faded out
And the Church began to take over.
You’re crazy if you think oppression is something of the past
They were more ruthless than the last, Guys who ran this place
So with the church in power the rape and pillaging started over
But this time it wasn’t the same
It was better, don’t you understand. They did it in GOD’S name.
So it’s all ok for us to oppress the poor.
Have a class system with only two levels once more
Where the rich get richer
And poor get poorer.
But that’s ok, they aren’t of noble birth
They couldn’t deal with the real issues of life
Why don’t they just realize
Things are how they are because they are simply uncivilized.
Their blood isn’t as pure as mine
And they aren’t worthy of my respect
It’s not my fault I was born upper class
They can get over it or kiss my,
Ask yourself this
Then sit back and ponder if you will
How it is that in the name of God
That we decided it was alright to kill,
The descendants of his chosen people,
Barbaric as they may have been
We waged war on a continent
To which we had never been.
But oh how we fought valiantly
And how we showed bravery.
We killed those savage Muslims
And we took their holy city, Jerusalem.
But that wasn’t enough for us
As nothing has ever been
We expanded our empire into every known place
We imposed our God on every new face.
Then one day in early colonization
A black man approached us with
An unbeatable proposition.
He said “I’ll sell you my brother
For some measly pieces of gold”
We had it in abundance,
So without a second’s pause we declared SOLD.
So we bought them by the thousands
And shipped them away from their home.
But it wasn’t really that unfair be-CAUSE
We gave them a new life, in the civilized AMERICAS!
We made them do our biddings
Simply because we were bigger.
We defaced their humanity
And labeled them lowly niggers.
So we’ve been out of the garden
For a few thousand years
Yet we haven’t made progress
Still living in fear
Our sin separated us from God
And it still does so today.
Our humanity made us killers then
And tell me when that stopped, when?
Now we can’t understand
Why the whole world hates us.
We took from them the gift of life
And gave them back nothing but strife.
“BUT we have apologized, why can’t they understand
We said we were sorry
We have done all we can”
Well you and I both know that that’s a load of crap
Its time we actually stand up and do something
To break this nasty cycle,
Its time we stand up look our brothers in the eye