So I have been told that Santa is checking his list. Checking to see who has been naughty or nice. I am sure if I had a typical developing child I may utilize this classic line to try to influence my child. I have, however, a special child. He is four years old and does not verbally communicate for he has autism, and for him the concept of naughty and nice is not understood. I share about him as he teaches so much about Theology. Specifically grace.
Our son has very little fear, if any. He will go up to any person and pull their hand toward the food he wants, or to be tickled or hugged. He has learned some social norms, but through a method of positive reinforcement. He does understand the word “no” and it is actually the one word he will on occasion use to communicate, but never with the few others that pop up now and again (cake, cookie, juice). He has no interest in Santa, but he has anticipated the chocolate in his Advent calendar, as he caught on just the other day. He is being shaped by forgiveness and love, alone. I am the first to admit this is not easy, it is extremely hard and frustrating. It would be helpful at this age to be able to say you are being naughty, or you will not get your chocolate, or don’t run up to strangers. So Christmas is void of any discussion of naughty or nice, it is purely filled with love.
Violence is human. I want to make it clear that violence is human. I know someone will bring up that the Old Testament God is violent. My response to that is should read more carefully, and understand that the ancient people wrote their violence onto God, and that continues to this day. For we humans have made the violent sacred. I know that is hard to read. It has been human’s way of bringing people together, against the “other.” We scapegoat a person or a group of people to bring us together. We do it as a nation, a region, and you can certainly see it in families and church. We find someone to scandalize, be it because of their beliefs or the sports teams they cheer on. While often the violence is simply verbal, direct or among the communing group, it can be acted out. I know of people killed for wearing the wrong jersey in a city, and I know of war. This is human.
God as non-violent love is the character we know of God, but we project our human morality upon God, and thus God can be on one side or the other. Clearly the human writers write that into the stories, but God’s character breaks through if you keep reading. A wonderful example is how Adam Ericksen handle’s David and Goliath story and shows that violence is not God’s way.
If you disagree that violence is not divine, you may want to stop reading. However, I hear people who agree with the idea that God is love, and yet believe moralistic laws are the only way, be it the Ten Commandments or new laws to create peace.
I am aware there is violence every day, in our country and in the world. I am aware that many children are innocently killed. So aware I often become numb to such violence. Honestly, I see it as part of humanity. However, Friday morning when I awoke on the West Coast, a little later than normal, with my coffee at hand I saw a report about the town my sister and her children reside. The two nephews are of elementary age; I was frightened. The story had a map of school’s location, and I was feeling fairly certain that it was not their school. I called my sister. They were safe, as far as she knew, but terrified because of a report of another shooter in the vicinity, and her daughter was across the street from Sandy Hook Elementary. I felt relief, and then guilt for such feeling, which grew and grew as the reports came in from my family (I ignored the news that day).
This act of violence is horrific and unexplainable, yet we have already begun scapegoating each other. One group seems to be calling for new legislation to bring us more in line with the Second Amendment, which is to regulate those who have weaponry, and then there are those who believe we simply need to enforce “Thou Shall Not Kill” more strongly. My friends, this is exactly human violence as well. If we say violence is an evil act, we are scapegoating the “devil,” unless we understand it is our human way to commune against another. Our sin is not simply the acts, but living in a legalistic morality. No matter what, we do not live up to the legalistic morality, but a system of grace and forgiveness will overcome violence. This is the lesson of the cross.
So where do we go from here? Good question. I am convinced we do need to change some things, from regulation of arms, to more access to mental health care. However, the real change is to understand that we can reflect the divine not by legalistic morality, but through grace and forgiveness. God is the only "other” and we are actually in this together; we must stop scapegoating and scandalizing other people.
My son gets it, better than you or I. Everything he is taught is through love and forgiveness. If we start tallying who is right and wrong, we end up with scapegoating, and making people “other.” I hear from my sister and mother how Newtown is united, but I see the nation not getting it. Both sides are scandalizing the other, and we have missed the love. My son needs to be socialized more as that is my goal of parenting, but I hope we can learn from him that we can live seeing everyone equally, forgiving them for we are also in the need of forgiveness. Let us work from grace and not morality. Morality creates division, and grace only love.
I am imagining that Santa is checking his list twice, to make sure all girls and boys are on the list, for only God is the great and perfect “other;” but is God sending rain on just the righteous? No. Like my son hugging everyone, it’s right here according to Matthew:
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)