From the Office of the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I give you Bruce Reyes-Chow's Lenten epistle.
I was privileged last month to participate in the Congressional Black Caucus inaugural interfaith prayer service as a representative of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And while the historic nature of the presidential inauguration was certainly important, I was most struck by the constant remembrance of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s commitment to non-violence in response to the shackles of oppression.
As I sat there, I could not help but wonder what it is that shackles us today. Where are our acts of civil disobedience called for in the world, our communities, and the church? Yes, things have changed much since the days of the greatest tensions of the civil rights movement, but we as human beings must always be vigilant to those places where we hold each other down, respond to evil with evil, and stay silent when we should speak.
Dr. King talked about the power of non-violence resting in the fact that it does not offer a response in-kind to those who choose violence and intimidation. A non-violent response to violence changes the terms of the relationship. It disarms – maybe not at first, but in the end, the love, power, and spirit of non-violence conquers all.
When it comes to the future of the PC(USA), I think we need to claim and live out words of non-violence. Too many times, I have seen words lofted between people with the sole purpose to cause pain, marginalize, bully, and shackle the other into some rigid characterization not of their making. We use words to hurt or conquer. We use words to flex our muscle, hold onto our power, and, too often, destroy the other.
What if we were to use words of non-violence that do not respond to evil with evil or exacerbate conflict? What if we were to use words – challenging, prophetic, and loving – that are meant to change the ways in which we move through difficult times? What if we were to use words that confuse the status quo of intentional, destructive interactions and, instead, allowed ourselves to be all that God intends – a community of people working to be a model of peace and reconciliation in a world that yearns so desperately to see one?
What have we got to lose?
This will be my prayer and my commitment this Lenten season.
I hope you will join me,