I have struggled this Advent, not just with the cold and darkness, but also with the barrage of images of death, violence, disease, and just downright meanness in the world. And then, when the report about the torture done in this country in our name came out, I felt like a knife had been stuck in my back. I don't usually write about political issues because I haven't figured out how to do enough research to be informed enough to articulate something that would be helpful. Mostly I just listen and try to learn. It doesn't seem like all the online hostility furthers the conversation anyway. One thing I do know, though. Torture is wrong. I am a follower of Jesus, who suffered torture before being crucified. I may be naive, but as a follower of the one who told us to love our enemies, I believe that torture is wrong. Period. And the fact that my fellow countrymen committed such atrocities fills me with shame. This torture was committed on my behalf. And for that I want to put on sackcloth and ashes. I am grateful that I live in a country where I have great privilege and much more security than many living in other places, but I am ashamed that security has become the idol to which we have sold our souls. The prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures cried out, "Repent." Indeed. Repent. We are a country in need of repentance.
The words of the Confession from Enriching Our Worship keep returning to my mind, especially these:
"We repent of the evil that enslaves us,
the evil we have done,
and the evil done on our behalf."
The evil done on our behalf. I repent of the evil done on my behalf. Please forgive me, God. Please forgive the United States of America, Jesus, for doing to others what was done to you. Please forgive us for the evil we have done.
It feels like the darkest night will not end. It looks like injustice will triumph. At times it even feels like hope is lost in a country where we can't even find a way to have civil conversation with one another. It is a dark, dark time. And yet, what we know is that Jesus was born into a dark time as well. The people had walked in darkness a long time before his birth restored the light. When he came he brought hope that all would be redeemed. I do not know how all this hatred and violence will be redeemed, but I do know that "nothing will be impossible with God."
My friends, I have some good news. The days are getting longer. The people who have walked in darkness will see a great light.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
This Christmas I pray for all who have suffered torture and for their tormentors, for all who have suffered violence and for those who are violent, for all who are victims of disease, despair, and destruction. I pray for the establishment of justice and righteousness in this and in every land, hoping that we one day we will no longer be walking in darkness but will be the people who walk in light.