Thursday Reflection: Yoga in the Airport; Violence in the School

They are doing yoga at the airport. And people are getting stabbed in our schools.

For most of us one day leads to another in relative peace – that is, we don’t have people trying to stab us or shooting at us. But the little girl in the picture has a different story. According to sources. she lost her parents and two siblings when they were killed in a drone attack. As part of a project called “Not A Bug Splat”, artists put together a giant poster of this child, visible from the skies. Drone operators would see the face, and the point might be driven home to them that, contrary to the euphemism used to talk about victims of such attacks – “Bug Splats” – they would see a human being.

In a comment on one of the sites, someone wondered if the project might have greater impact where it counts the most if the face were of either Sasha or Malia Obama.

Regarding that “relative peace” I mentioned, that might actually be stretching things a bit. Schools, shopping malls and army bases are in the news with enough frequency to make us uncomfortable – shootings and stabbings. It’s been some time since I read When Society Becomes an Addict by Anne Wilson Schaef. She attempted to get us to see that our individual addictions are actually symptoms of a larger problem. Our society is itself built on an addictive system. Our national ‘drug of choice’ is violence.

The classic first clue regarding an addiction is denial. We confess on one hand that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” But on the other hand, we manage to convince ourselves as a nation that we can wield the sword with a kind of moral impunity. Our nation behaves like an angry bull in a china shop, oblivious to the fact that the dishes we are breaking are our own children, our own poor, our own senior citizens. President Obama can’t attend one national Memorial Service without having another national tragedy unfold before the final “Amen”. And the NRA is nothing if not compulsive obsessive.

What can I write that moves this piece across the line from rant to repentance – that is, from complaining, to a change of direction? What is needed in this country is an intervention! But who will provide it? Will the face of a child painted large on a far away field do the trick? Will the photos at #NotABugSplat get our attention and inspire us to change?

We are going to have to find something besides ourselves to be addicted to. Like alcoholics in recovery, we are going to have to learn to be forever vigilant. The violence we experience in our schools and communities is borne in the double womb of the bombs we drop on people far away and the indifference we feel toward the people next door. It’s not that we don’t like each other; it’s that we don’t have a face for each other any more.

The integrity of a chain rides on its weakest link when its strength is tested. In contrast to the claims of the “trickle down” crowd, we don’t all benefit when the strong get stronger. We all benefit when the weak get stronger. Isn’t that the essence of the Christian gospel? Salvation doesn’t come by way of the “Thunder god”; it comes by way of a human being – God-Made-Flesh. People miss it because we are addicted to the very thing we have to be saved from – ourselves.

Methinks the “intervention” is going to have to be divine in its inspiration, and human in its implementation. It begins with believing. It culminates in doing. Yoga in the airport may be a start. But First UMC Burlington is downtown. Time for us to open up – and be a house of prayer for all people – seven days a week.

Who will make us a sandwich board that reads: “Sanctuary Open for Prayer”? Who will help me ‘staff’ it – commit to being present at some point in the day? There’s yoga at the airport. Let there be prayer – seven days a week – at First UMC Burlington. Maybe we could even provide a mat or two …

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.