As a child, we learned a song about how all of God's people got love. I do not remember all of the words but I remember how my Sunday school classmates and I would sing over and over again about God's love - how all of God's children are called to love. At the heart of the Old Testament stands a call to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus' words in the gospels are full of love and a call to love. As people of faith, we are called to love.
Why is it, then, that there is so much hatred within God's people? Why is it that there are so many words of division spoken by people of faith?
It did not take long for me to realize today which group is meeting at the Washington Convention Center, directly across from our church. When I got off the Metro at the Convention Center stop, I was greeted by sirens and large tour buses. I knew immediately that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "America's Pro-Israel Lobby" is in town.
Traffic was at a standstill while buses of convention goers were escorted through the neighborhood by police cars.
Armed security guards were everywhere.
From my experience as one with an office directly across from the Convention Center, the AIPAC meeting is the only gathering of convention goers with the power to stop traffic as their buses go through town at the height of rush hour. This gathering is the only gathering that I have witnessed in the last three years with the power to have local police escort them through town, no matter how bad the traffic buildup might be as a result. And every time I hear these sirens and see these buses, my mind takes me back to my journey through the Middle East almost ten years ago.
My eyes were opened as we visited with Israelis and Palestinians who shared stories with us of homes being demolished, of people being moved without notice, of bulldozers coming and clearing the way, all because the Israelis' claimed that the land belonged to them - no matter how many hundreds of years a Palestinian might have been there. My heart ached every time my eyes beheld a red-roofed settlement. I knew that each red roof represented a family that had been moved away - relegated away from their home to another place.
Each time I hear the sirens today, I wonder how it is that the people who are attending the AIPAC convention are more important than the people trying to get to work this morning or get home tonight. Why is it that traffic is stopped for this convention, that the police force are employed for this convention, and not for any other convention?
I also keep thinking about the argument I saw this morning. On one corner, outside of my office, is a group of Hasidic Jews who are protesting. They are carrying a sign denouncing Israel's unjust practices and the unfair ramifications of Zionism. This morning, I listened as these Hasidic Jews passionately argued with another Jewish man, clearly marked by the fabric on top of his head.
And, my heart ached.
My heart hurt.
I do not like to see two people of one faith fighting with one another. I hate seeing two people - two of God's children - shouting words of hatred and judgment against each other.
I am convinced that this disagreement, that people of one faith arguing passionately about justice, is not what God had in mind when he called us to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God.
But it is not only my Jewish friends who are causing me to question. My own faith and my own denomination has also had its share of people disagreeing in recent weeks. My heart ached more than once at our recent Annual Conference when statements were made about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. My heart sinks when I hear words of hatred being spoken about my gay brothers and lesbian sisters. And every time we argue, I wonder how many people we are sending away. Every time we appear to be at odds, I wonder how many people are saying, "To hell with the church. I'd rather follow Jesus."
I believe that we were all created in the image of God - Jew and Greek, slave and free, gay and straight, black and white, young and old. I believe that we all have God's image stamped across our heads. I believe that we are all called to see this radiance in one another. I believe that God gave creation enough - enough space to sleep, enough food to eat, enough water to drink, enough fiber to wear - for every single person. I believe in God's call for justice, mercy and humility. I pray for people of faith to come together. I pray for people of faith to see how our disagreements hurt the church - mightily. I pray that we will see that no one - not one single person - Israeli or Palestinian, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, powerful or meek, President or pauper - is better than another person.
God, help us to be like you. Help us to love as you love. Take away our divisions. Take away our eagerness to exult some while lowering others. Make us one, Lord. Make us one.