Sometimes I look around at all the faces of all the white Christian women (in cyberspace and church spaces I am so often surrounded by faces of white Christian women) and I think, there’s something that I really need to say.
I need to say, “We’re doing too much peacemaking.”
We have set our stock in peace, haven’t we, women of Christ? We have lifted this up, what we know of peace. It is gentleness and compromise. It is meekness and humility. It is the ever-lauded ability to be nice, and to give grace to those who wound.
But sisters, this is what I need to say. When we hold these values high, we contribute to a culture that cannot tolerate anger. We build a town square that cannot receive righteous complaint. We justify dehumanization of those who are hurt and dare to tell about it. We justify the invisibility of those who cry out in anguish and are not heard.
I believe that this is the first problem, the biggest problem, the most invisible and huge and least surmountable problem for activist white women in the Christian church.
We are doing too much peacemaking.
Oh, I know it’s right there in the Beatitudes, I know. Blessed are the peacemakers.
What I don’t know is how we think we know what peace truly is. How can we know peace, if we haven’t the ability to witness violence? How can we speak to healing, when we are so far from the wound?
If our assumption is that valid teachers do not speak out of their pain, then we have closed our ears to the truth of suffering. And though we speak of dying to the self, we do not first learn the shape and edges of those selves. We do not know what there is to die to.
I look around at us, sisters. I see us in all our whiteness and the lauded beauty of whiteness, and I see us doing our best to follow the directions. I see us trying to export this language of Christ, saying, “Don’t resist! Don’t bear ill will! Die to the self, it’s good for you!”
Blessed are the peacemakers. We’ve been told.
But are we blessed when we put a good face on blades that cut? Or when we keep ugly things quiet? Are we blessed when with our social graces we dissolve tension and suppress the spark to revolution? When we shush the power structure so it doesn’t come across as such a jerk, or wipe each others’ tears in ladies’ rooms, or keep the conversation civil at the table?
Is this peacemaking? Or is this policing hearts?
White Christian women, there are tons of us. We’re relatively organized. We have resources. What’s more, we have a deep and true collective hunger for the face of Christ. We could get this right. If only we could stop getting it so wrong.
Let’s not keep this peace. The peace we have right now is broken. It is rotten right down to the core. It incarcerates and kills and abandons women and men of color and does the same to queer people and exports white supremacy and economic oppression hand-in-hand across the globe. It justifies the cruel misuse of human and natural resources, and then it tells the people who most have a right to be angry that anger isn’t spiritual.
Please, don’t let’s keep this peace.
Let’s dream up a different peace instead, one that isn’t so heavy as the broken kind. Let’s dream up a peace in which anger isn’t toxic because anger leads to action, which leads to justice, which leads to redemption for us all. Let’s dream up a peace in which we can hear the voice crying out in the wilderness, and we can check our own egos and line up behind leaders rising to liberate nations that we didn’t have the eyes to see.
And let us die to the self, yes, but let’s not kill love, or love of justice, or authentic voice. Let’s not kill our capacity to criticize wrongdoing at the hands of the powerful. Please, let’s hit the other stuff instead. Let’s hit the fear of instability, and the fear of having spent our entire lives on the wrong side. Let’s kill our guilt and our disruptive tears, and our fear of what the Holy Spirit can do when it is fully and truly unleashed. Let’s kill our intolerance, our knee-jerk self-defense mechanisms, and our habit of looking down at people who make too much noise.
Let us practice peacemaking for Christ, and not for empire.
Esther Emery used to direct stage plays in Southern California. But that was a long time ago. Now she is pretty much a runaway, living off the grid in a yurt and tending to three acres in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She writes about faith and rebellion and trying to live a totally free life at www.estheremery.com