By Alan Bean
In his book Don’t Shoot, criminologist David Kennedy identifies a disconnect between a criminal justice system built on the notion of personal responsibility and the fact that gang bangers think and behave as members of a group. You can’t reduce gun violence by ratcheting up the penalties for individuals, Kennedy believes, you have to deal with entire neighborhoods at once.
Kennedy’s insight came to mind last week when I read Brent Younger’s post about “Preaching peace in a timid church“. A few years ago, Younger moved from Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth to teach preaching at the McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.
At the 2012 William Self Preaching Lectures at the McAfee School of Theology, “Preaching Peace in a Crumbling Empire,” Brian McLaren argued that the Bible is a call to speak God’s word of peace to an empire built on power.
“We preach the peace of one who was crucified, so we cannot preach power that crucifies,” McLaren said. “We preach a way of love and service, so we cannot preach conquest and domination.”
McLaren’s words in the chapel were challenging and inspiring. The words in the hall — not so much. Popular opinion seems to be that peace belongs in lectures, but not in sermons:
“That peace stuff wouldn’t fly at my church.”
“Now we know why McLaren isn’t a pastor anymore.”
“His last church must have been in Switzerland.”
“If I preach on peace, war will break out in the next deacons’ meeting.”
“I’ll preach against the war when McLaren agrees to pay my kid’s college tuition.”
In Jesus’ day prophets were run out of town, thrown off a cliff or stoned in the middle of the village. Now we dismiss prophets in the conversations between lectures.
The fear of social consequences largely determines what is said and remains unsaid in the pulpits of Christendom. It isn’t just street punks who engage in group-think, it’s everybody. (more…)