Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Learning from the Monk

I walked with Monk over to the protest today, figuring it is an opportunity for him to see a pretty significant event in the life of our country. I had seen, before leaving work, that the riot police had been called in at lunch time today, but it sounded like all was relatively calm again.

The anti-war protesters are set up right in front of City Hall and the counter-protesters are located directly across the street in the park. The road between the two remains open and is not even backed up with traffic. I'm terrible at estimating crowds, but I'd say there were probably about 200 people present. I expect the crowd will grow on both sides as the 7:00 meeting draws near.

As we approached, we heard a speaker on the counter-protesters' side shouting into a PA system. She was maintaining that the anti-war protesters were traitors of the United States. "And what do we do with traitors?" she implored. "We lock them up and throw away the key!" she answered her own question. (I was so thankful she didn't invoke the death penalty as I'd feared when I heard her question!) A sparse cheer went up in response. Huh.

As we walked in among the Code Pink protesters, I tried to place my body in front of the poster-sized photographs of torture victims from Abu-Ghraib on display so I could hide them from Monk's view. I think I succeeded. We stood for a little while and listened as the women from Code Pink sang We Shall Not Be Moved. There were maybe a dozen women, arm and arm, dressed in pink, swaying and singing the song. Although my first reaction was disappointment at hearing another one of the old sixties protest songs being dragged out of the dusty past, I noticed, as we listened to them, that because they were singing, they couldn't hear the hurtful things being shouted about them from across the way. I noticed, too, that it was only women's voices that I was hearing on both sides of the street. That intrigues me no end.

We didn't stay long. As we walked away, Monk began to speak angrily about the counter-protesters calling folks traitors. He was upset by the rhetoric. You know, he probably talked for about 45 minutes nonstop after that. He is at an age where things are very black and white, right or wrong. Clear moral principles and clear ways to live them out.

I found myself wanting to temper his comments, to try and lift up the subtleties at work on both sides of the street. But he was frustrated by that. He was angry that the "other side" (the counter-protesters, from his perspective) were resorting to weak arguments that were off-issue, basically. They were not arguing their perspective from its own merit, but using inflammatory and distracting language instead.

Eventually, it brought him to theological questions. He wanted to know why Christians are not all committed to nonviolence when that was everything Jesus was about. He wanted to know if President Bush even went to a church. (I assured him he did, though I marvel at it as well.) Ultimately, he wanted to know how God could love people who said hurtful things and deliberately mislead people. I told him that God surely loves everyone. And Monk said he imagines God pulling his hair out at night, fretting like a sixth grader with a big project due the next day.

When I tried to offer my understanding of why some Christians (most?) are not nonviolent, Monk was not satisfied. He shook his head: "Love is always stronger than death!" He asserted strongly. Then he offered an unlikely analogy: "It's like a Great White Shark and a hunk of raw steak. The Great White Shark would totally destroy the steak! The Great White Shark is love!"

"But," I suggested, "a lot of people might have to die before love defeats an oppressive government."

He was quiet for a moment. "True," he said, feeling some of the weight of it. "But violence, killing someone, never leads to a better situation. It never accomplishes anything."

"It is a statement of faith," I said, "to say that love is stronger than death."

"Yeah," he responded. "It is."

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.


Anonymous said...

"out of the mouth of babes" ...
Our Monk has always been so perceptive and insightful.
Love IS stronger (and VICTORIOUS over death).
The NT instructs us to "call things that be not as though they were;" a verbal demonstration of faith. He sounds like another young girl about the same age, who once spoke to about 500 on "What Faith Means to Me" some years back. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Jen, I remember Monk a bit smaller, just a little older than my little one is now. Hard to imagine conversations like that with her one day down the road. I look forward to them already!
Anna M.