True religion, as James described centuries ago, involves reaching out to the widows, orphans, the most vulnerable. Violence only creates more vulnerability.
Our postures of prayer, hands clasped or bodies bent forward and prostrated, should create space in us for faith in increase, hope to stir, love to rise up. Our houses of prayer should move us to the threshold of the world poised to proceed with goodness and grace.
But when our faith harbors hostility, violence already stands close by – waiting. In our shared humanity we all struggle with hostile tendencies in our faith communities, none are exempt.
We have hard hearts – hardened by arid conditions. Throw a match – and see that a small spark can alight a firestorm across continents. Even on a day set aside for prayer. Even in countries once celebrated as most Christian. (None of us can throw the first stone.)
And when our various countries and cultures, faiths and freedoms collide… our hostility, hatred and most hellish inclinations can wreak such unholy havoc. Our fear, ignorance and indignation can make it worse.
All the words, all the footage, the heated demonstrations and deaths (oh Libya, oh Tunisia)… and all I have to offer: tears and heaviness of heart.
And a wisp of a dream emerges – the divorce of faith and violence forever. One day our faith won’t remember where violence lives.
Lord, have mercy.