I admit to feeling lost in my anger this week. Is it the Mennonite thing to do? On the one hand, I’m a Mennonite and I’m doing it (a descriptive approach to faith), so, yeah. On the other, it’s not what this faith teaches (a prescriptive approach), so no. And it’s certainly not admirable.
But God knows it’s honest.
That’s a public confession (the kind we used to do before communion, if you were a certain kind of Mennonite), not a point of pride.
And the worst of this feeling isn’t that it’s directed at the NRA or do-nothing members of Congress but at people I love, like my grandmother and my great-aunt, who together lovingly finished a set of quilts for our family this past year, ones that my great-grandmother had begun before she died a few years ago. I tuck my children into bed each night under them, a new generation of my family enveloped in the labor and love of generations. And I’m furious, because I know that either of these two women would, in fact, take a bullet for my children–but their support of a gun culture is actually what puts my children in danger. They aren’t villains, but I can’t visit my grandmother in her home because she won’t lock up her guns.
So, how do we forbear when our people who are loving and sometimes even heroic also support practices and policies that risk our lives?
You quote the Confession of Faith:
Led by the Spirit, and beginning in the church, we witness to all people that violence is not the will of God. We witness against all forms of violence, including war among nations, hostility among races and classes, abuse of children and women, violence between men and women, abortion, and capital punishment.
How do we “witness against all forms of violence” when it seems that the only thing that proponents of guns understand or respect is violence?
Let me turn to a Catholic concept: grace for the present moment. The 18th century Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes in Abandonment to Divine Providence: “If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.” That is, in whatever moment we are in–even if it’s a very hostile one, with enemies all around us and confusion about our place here–we can rely on God to help us adhere to our faith. In Catholic terms, God provides actual grace, the extra help or encouragement we need in that moment, to do what might in a different moment be impossible, like the shot of adrenaline that propels you forward into danger to save someone’s life in an act of bravery you couldn’t do in any other moment. It doesn’t just happen, though–it is something that God blesses you with when you “abandon” yourself.
I see your Menno Simons and raise you a Jean-Pierre de Caussade, pictured above.
That’s the hard thing, though. The abandoning yourself. And it’s especially hard when the reason you are holding on to yourself is because you are afraid for the lives of your children. If there is a harder “present moment,” I don’t want to imagine it.