Witnessing to peace in the midst of tragedy

Today’s New York Times contains a story about a peace-advocating Methodist church in Connecticut trying to deal with the murder of a mother and two daughters who were active in the church. The church’s consistent stand against the death penalty places them in a very difficult position. On the one hand, this situation presents the perfect opportunity to put Christ’s command to “love your enemies as yourselves” into practice. On the other hand, no one wants to turn the tragedy of a person close to the community into a political rally cry.

Complicating this matter further is the possibility that some in the church are changing their minds about capital punishment because of this experience. But that only exposes the fact that their conception of peace is born within a bourgeois framework of personal comfort. To speak out against the violent systems of evil in our world is no more challenging for some people than dropping dimes in a Red Cross bucket. That is why this situation is so interesting. Can a church that has denounced capital punishment and the use of retributive violence witness to this gospel of peace in the midst of tragedy?

For those of us who are not part of this church, how do you think your own local congregations would respond to a situation like this? Would the church cry out for punishment? Would people stay silent in order to respect those left behind? When is it appropriate to speak out publicly? How do you witness to peace in the midst of tragedy?


I often ask myself this hypothetical question, since I have been so privileged not to deal with a violent event in my own community. Of course, I have the privilege of choosing my communities, which means avoiding violence at all costs. I question whether that is an appropriate thing for a Christian to do.

I think the desire for revenge needs to be prayed through the Psalter, not taken into ones hands through personal or political means. The desire for revenge ultimately meets its end on the cross, which is the final judgment of all human thought and feeling in the midst of tragedy.
Anonymous said…
I feel that your concluding question is an especially important one to be asking in our day (and I'm pretty surprised that only one person ended up responding to it). I'd like to blog a response, but I'm so back-logged in blogging these days that I'm unsure about when I'll be able to get to it.

Until then, I'd be very interested in hearing how you might answer the question(s) that you raise in this post.