Diana Butler Bass has written her first blog since the death of her mother last year. Butler Bass, an Arizona native, is challenging those of us who preach to go beyond the simple bromides that are the common fare shared the morning after a national tragedy.
"At their best, American pulpits are not about taking sides and blaming. Those pulpits should be places to reflect on theology and life, on the Word and our words. I hope that sermons tomorrow will go beyond expressions of sympathy or calls for civility and niceness. Right now, we need some sustained spiritual reflection on how badly we have behaved in recent years as Americans--how much we've allowed fear to motivate our politics, how cruel we've allowed our discourse to become, how little we've listened, how much we've dehumanized public servants, how much we hate.
Sunday January 9 is the day on which many Christians celebrate the Baptism of Jesus: 'When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.'' Jesus' baptism in water symbolizes life, the newness that comes of cleansing. But there is a darker symbol of baptism in American history: that of blood. In 1862, Episcopal bishop Stephen Elliot of Georgia said, 'All nations which come into existence . . . must be born amid the storm of revolution and must win their way to a place in history through the baptism of blood.' Baptism as water? Baptism as blood? Baptism accompanied by a dove or baptism accompanied by the storm of revolution?
American Christianity is deeply conflicted, caught between two powerful symbols of baptism, symbols that haunt our political sub-consciousness. To which baptism are we called? Which baptism does the world most need today? Which baptism truly heals? Do we need the water of God, or the blood of a nine-year old laying on a street in Tucson? The answer is profoundly and simply obvious. We need redemption gushing from the rivers of God's love, not that of blood-soaked sidewalks.
If we don't speak for the soul, our silence will surely aid evil."