The Blessing for Those Who Mourn By Mark L. Vincent
Claim the Blessing for Those Who Mourn
Today I claim the blessing for those of us who mourn, that we might be comforted.
Watching a news report the day after Barack Obama’s first-term inauguration, I heard a fashion critic commenting on the choices of Michelle and daughters as they dressed for the inauguration and the balls that night.
Something happened in that newscast that reminds me of the man with the withered hand brought to Jesus (Mark 2). Those who brought him didn’t care all that much whether the man was healed. They simply wanted Jesus to try, and on the Sabbath day, so they could plot how to ruin his appeal to the masses. It was an early form of gotcha journalism as they intended to spread their distorted edition of what happened.
In the newscast, the tape of the fashion critic’s comments was being played in the background while the reporter kept reading the teleprompter. It was staged in such a way that the reporter broke off just in time to hear the critic say that Michelle Obama’s gold outfit for the inaugural ceremony was inappropriate for the economic times, and that the choice of a white gown for the balls did not play well on television. The critic’s comments about the elegance of her outfits and the context of the day were excised for the preferred soundbite.
It was a double-dose of gotcha. The critic used their version of what mattered to establish her authority on all things fashion, and a media organization used just a bit of what the critic said in order to make the critic appear peevish and small while still conveying the same critique to an even larger audience (without appearing to be the ones making the critique).
So, an observation eleven years later. As much as we might feel things have changed, they really haven’t all that much.
Here is another for instance: I was in college in the 1980s when the Christians around me divided left and right around low impact warfare in Central America and abortion. On the one hand, Honduran were teenagers being ripped away from their families and impressed (illegally) into military service in Nicaragua and were being trained by the US military at US military bases.
Anyone who fled these battlefields and crossed the US border was in the country illegally and was deported back. Those who offered sanctuary in their churches were criminally charged. I was able to travel there and tour military bases, visit church communities where I met some of those young men (15 and 16-year-olds now missing arms and legs from land mines), and be a witness to this travesty, so I’m not just reporting hearsay.
On the other hand, millions of fetuses were being vacuumed from their mothers as a birth-control method. The Republican administration supported the first and railed against the latter. The Democratic opposition railed against the former and built support for the latter into its platform Daily, I was instructed by people that I had once respected that I was not a good Christian unless I voted according to their passionate convictions about one of these death-dealing matters without mourning over the other.
In every election since, and again now, I’m hearing strident voices telling me to vote according to what they consider righteous without admitting the bloody tragedies they are ignoring. These are false and forced choices — especially among people who disciple themselves after a Teacher who claimed a blessing on those who mourn.
It seems that part of the human condition is to demean profound events, to spin them for personal rather than corporate good, to distort and reverse engineer and parse until it became everything to no-one and nothing to everyone. I think I’ll rely more on my memory of events like these —whether healing withered hands or inaugurating presidents—than what the pundits and increasingly fellow believers who shout through megaphones rather than engage in community-building tell me is memorable. Friends, we are letting ourselves be addicted to anxiety or anger or both, when our calling grows from a gospel of hard-won peace.
I stand in a tradition of those who think, decide and act for our children and theirs – not just that they get to be born, but that there is a world to live in that is full of Shalom. I feel such a sorrow that sisters and brothers of mine are rejoicing over the death and suffering of people they believe are enemies instead of creations of God. Some of those same sisters and brothers tell me I need to claim my blessing. I claim the one for those of us who mourn, that we might be comforted.
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