Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reflections on Rwanda 1994

I just finished Left To Tell, a compelling memoir by a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Imaculee Ilibigaza spent nearly 3 months cramped shoulder to shoulder in strict silence with a group of women in a tiny bathroom, while murdering mobs made periodic searches of the house where she was sheltered by a Hutu pastor.

During that awful time she had a profound encounter with God through her desperate prayers for deliverance. Her book is not a theodicy but it is a testimony to the presence of God in the midst of evil and a tribute to the the human capacity to find grace even in the context of horror. Her relationship with God enabled her to survive and to move through grief to to a life of joy. It even set her free to forive the murderers of her family and friends.

Not long ago I read a biography of the German theologian, Paul Tillich, including his escape from Germany just as the Nazi reich was beginning its campaign of violence against those who did not support their hatred. Reading such books in these times compels serious reflection.

The Church has a theology and a spirituality, not a political philosophy. But politics is always susceptible to spirits that are larger and more powerful than ideologies -- sometimes, spirits of mercy, justice, and reconciliation; sometimes spirits of hatred, fear, and blame (Rene Girard). Whatever our political convictions may be, Christians have a duty to infuse politics with a godly spirit and to resist the spiritualy of malice.

The Ugandan legislation imposing death for homosexuality is an example of a spirituality of malice. The Arizona immigration legislation is not as bad as that, but it is plenty bad enough. However, my concern is broader than specific legislation. I would not equate the extremist rhetoric of today's American politics with the Rwandan madness -- but it is deeply troubling -- not in its content, not in its political positions -- it is troubling in its malice, its dehumanizing of those who differ.

Christian may hold any variety of political and economic theories. But we cannot forget each other's humanity, which means we cannot forget when we speak of each other that we are speaking of God's children. Our calling is always to bless and not to curse.

The habit of blessing grows. The habit of cursing grows. They grow in opposite dirctions. Our basic freedom is to choose which direction we as individuals and as a society choose to follow.

1 comment:

Rick+ said...

I especially liked the part where you said, "Our calling is always to bless and not to curse."