It has been quite a week for news. Perhaps you’ve heard enough about Osama Bin Laden’s death. His burial at sea, the potential for & denial of photographs, and even the hoped for interrogation of his wife has filled the airways, newspapers, & internet.
It got me thinking again about how quickly we get news and how insatiable is our appetite for more information. How did you hear the news?
Were you watching TV that evening or
did you see it on one of the morning news shows?
Did you happen to hear it on the radio? …were you in your car?
Or do you read your morning news ‘on-line’?
-- I read that the website for the Newseum, a museum in Washington devoted to journalism, was inaccessible for many visitors Monday as thousands of people flocked to it to see how newspapers around the world handled coverage of the terrorist leader's death. The website posts digital replicas of front pages of hundreds of newspapers every day.
-- The site was processing more than 2,800 requests per second when it became overloaded. Traffic started to peak at 3 a.m. Eastern time when Europeans woke to the news. It grew again at about 6 a.m. when people in the Eastern Standard time zone awoke to the news.
Perhaps, like me, you first heard on Twitter?
I had already shut down & turned off - the night before when the president announced the news but it was one of the first tweets I saw when I "plugged in" Monday morning.
I soon began to see reactions on Facebook and all day long there was a stream of emails and links to blogs where people were commenting on the death and the nation’s reaction to it.
Maybe you picked up the morning paper and read the story:
(I wonder if the morning paper readers were the LAST to hear the news?)
We have quite a different news stream in today’s world than in times past.
There was A time when news was written down before publication.
A time not that long ago when letters – hand written letters – were the primary device for sending news.
I've been reminded of how much communication has changed as I read a book based during WWI. The technology I take for granted, even telephones, are relatively recent developments
A hundred years ago isn’t very long in human history. It is within this century that innovations allowing fast, instant, communication have come about.
Back in the day, Peter's day, and those who followed Peter & continued the tradition in his name, shared news orally. Local information was carried ‘on the run’ literally and stories told or information shared.
For more worldly news, they had to rely on letters that were written out and hand delivered. The letters were then recited out loud and they were cherished, savored, expected to be shared.
We know from scholarly investigation, that reading in the 1st century was an oral process. Letters like 1 Peter, were written to be read aloud, performed is a more appropriate concept. This is the way that early Christian communities heard the latest news.
In another hundred years, things changed for Christians.
By the. 2nd century, Clement of Alexandria commends Christian authors who "speak thru books above those who are present” which meant they orally presented the words of a letter writer. A hundred years changes a lot and for the 2nd century, the literate reading industry of the privileged few became for book producers, the technology of the future. (yaghjian p.218)[i]
It is hard to imagine waiting months or longer to hear about events. For us, It seems strange to wait even a day to hear the result of some action. Remember how frustrating it was in the 2000 election not to know who the president was for days?
It is more to our liking to get the news immediately after Bin Ladin’s death was confirmed. There was no waiting for the next day. A news conference was held at 11:30 because the people need to know ….and after all word was already out on Twitter.
But today’s instant communication means we also get unfiltered reactions. Perhaps we are closer to the early runners who delivered news around a community. The immediate words and responses that came across Twitter and Facebook were very fresh and some were quite raw.
As I read reactions, tweets, and news blips, I began to wonder about what I heard.
For instance, one person wrote:
“I was at the White House last night (Sunday night) celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. It was crazy with people climbing light poles, songs (someone brought a drum set), singing our national anthem, people climbing in all the trees right outside the White House, chants of USA, USA, USA, and just a great celebration with Americans for justice and freedom. Many foreigners there as well! There were probably 4,000-5,000 people there. The celebration was still going on at 3:45amEST when I went to bed.”
There were numerous responses of joy, relief and general rejoicing that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I wondered if initial reactions in the religious communities would be any different. – some were just as jubilant but
One friend on Facebook wrote about her confusion, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel, she said, but I’m pretty sure it’s not patriotic."
Then the official reactions began:
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, released a brief written statement reacting to the news. “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”
NCC response: The death of Osama bin Laden is a significant moment in the turbulent history of the past decade. It does not eradicate the scourge of terrorism nor does it bring closure to the grieving and pain the world has endured since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for which he was the primary architect. The National Council of Churches deplores and condemns the extremism he personified, the twisted illusions that wrought years of violence and evil. Now the member communions of the National Council of Churches pray for God's help as we commit ourselves to moving forward together as witnesses for God's love and peace.
I remembered my friend’s Facebook post and wondered how other anabaptists were reacting.
Jarod McKenna, the Australian who has come to love Brethren since he spoke at NYC said he got up and put on his On Earth Peace t-shirt that says, “When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ I think He probably meant, don't kill them.”
A Brethren Church website had the following reaction at the end of a more lengthy post:
“This blog leaves unanswered some very serious questions about the church’s response to evil. Those will come another day. For today, I simply say this: If you find yourself celebrating the killing of a killer who celebrated killing, beware.
In a world where violence is everywhere, silence and humble reflection seem the better options.” (Central COB Roanoke)
We don’t have all the answers to evil in the world, nor will we always respond like Jesus did, yet shouldn’t his life, death and resurrection make a difference in the way we Christians respond to violence?
The message communicated in Peter’s letter warns us to live in reverent fear, even if we are trusting in the final judgment to take care of terrorists. We ourselves should remember that we too will stand before the same judge. These words are not to make us afraid, but to remind us not to think we have a close, cozy relationship with the Almighty.
As my OT professor said, “God is not your friend.” Peter’s letter reminds us that God is the One who judges all people impartially, not by their theology but by their lives.[ii]
This letter is not the instant communication of someone’s RAW feelings but a well-thought out treatise that brings the mystery of the resurrection into the everyday lives of Christians living 60 or more years after Jesus’ life. We need this relevant message too.
The author show us why Jesus resurrection makes a difference FOR today.
We read (somewhat casually) about being ransomed – which is not a concept we use unless we hear pirates have kidnapped someone. The surprise is that we are ransomed from our own futile ways. There is real urgency in this communication.
We are ‘saved’ from our gut reactions and raw feelings of revenge and blood lust. It is because of Jesus, that we can live & act as a different kind of people. . . (pause)
We may feel much like our neighbors, or even like those who climbed light poles on Sunday and wrapped themselves in the flag.
HOW WE ACT, tho, is determined by another priority.
Our ransomed state TURNS US TO TRUST GOD and God alone, for our security.
Our ransomed state molds us into obedience to the truth and turns us IN LOVE toward our neighbors – ALL of them.
Even those expressing RAW FEELINGS we don’t care for and toward those who swear threats against us.
This is where we need the GOOD NEWS of this Letter. .
Peter’s author reminds us that we are ransomed from captivity to our own broken wills.[iii] We now live with the fundamental orientation of our lives toward God.[iv]
Because Jesus lives. . Our love CAN be for BOTH friends AND enemies.
We CAN ACT lovingly until we are so transformed that we even FEEL that love.
Our rejoicing isn’t about death, but about new life; the new life that Christ offers when we are born anew.
We can take our raw feelings and ask Christ’s spirit to help us act loving EVEN when we feel hurt and anger.
Because He lives, We can risk making Jesus the very foundation of all we say and do.
Our words & deeds should look different than the world’s RAW messages -
We really CAN live like we take Jesus seriously, …because he lives.