MLK wrote toward the end of his life “Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community (1967). At this point of history he suggests the only alternatives to the human family are learning to live with each other or tearing each other apart.
We have watched these last few days as chaos takes the field. In Iraq Shiite and Sunni Muslims vie for power and insurgents of whatever stripe simply try to create a sense of hopeless chaos.
North Korea flexes missile muscles and attempts to show it can throw its nuclear warheads as far as US soil.
Iran the bad boy in the middle East rattles sabers and stirs up Hezbullah.
And now Israel draws Lebanon into the skrmish.
Distrust, confusion, fear, and chaos leave us feeling bewildered and vulnerable. How do we fix this mess? Where do we go from here?
Chaos or Community. Perhaps we would like some other way, since chaos is not our choice and we are not really sure we want to live together with these people. Perhaps there is a third way. Perhaps we could just put up some wall to keep trouble out and isolate ourselves from these people. Good fences make good neighbors, the farmer in Frost’s poem “Mending walls” suggests. Well if it doesn’t make our neighbors good, it keeps them from being bad on our property.
And so we humans have tried to solve the problem of faking peace with others by building walls that keep us from having contact with them. There are so many walls.
They can be defensive. The Great wall of China begun over 23000 years ago stretches 43,000 miles from Tibet to the Gobi Desert. Built to keep first one and then another enemy from invading. It is said that it cost a million lives of peasants drafted into the construction. And that –a wall – is the only man-made structure seen from outerspace. Although now the second human impact can be seen in environmental devastation.
There is even today sections of Hadrian’s wall in England built to keep Celts out of the Roman occupied England two thousand years ago.
The Berlin Wall split that city into communitst East Germany and the democratic West Germany from 1961, till its sudden demise in November 9, 1989.
There is the famous walls of Jericho that came a tumbling down when Jsohua fit the battle with trumpets.
Israel began a “wall of separation”, a barrier to separate Gaza and the West Bank. It isn’t the first wall they have built, but it has not been the solution and has created a humanitarian crisis by keeping workers and food supplies from flowing.
Nazis built ghetto walls to isolate Jews in places like Warsaw. It made it easier to exterminate them.
Extending a wall between Mexico and the United States for over 1000 miles is being advocated by several politicians.
There is something in us that loves a wall. That believes it will make good neighbors.
From time to time we talk about breaking walls down, removing ‘no tresspassing’ signs so outsiders can feel free to come inside. But at the same time we speak about walls coming down we are often engaged in putting them up somewhere else.
We desegregate in one plan and resegregate by another. We open up businesses and live in gated communities. And there is more than one wall dividing. As someone aptly put it there is a velvet wall dividing the rich and poor, there is a sheepskin wall dividing folks according to their educational degrees. Who has not felt on the outside of some wall in their life?
Our differences have become our divisions. And our divisions have all to often become our walls of hostility.
Michael Lindval tells about a friend of his, Fuad Bahnan, an Arab Christian pastor in Beirut after the last Arab-Israeli war. In 1983, Israeli armies drove into Lebanon — and members of the church began to buy all the canned food they could to survive a rumored Israeli siege. That’s what happened. West Beirut was totally cut-off. And so the Session of the church met to decide how to distribute the food they had purchased. Two proposals were put on the table. The first was to distribute food to the church members, then other Christians, last – if any was left – to Muslim neighbors. The other proposal was different. First food would be given to Muslim neighbors, then to other Christians, finally — if there was any left over — to church members.
The meeting lasted six hours. “It ended when an older, quiet, much respected Elder, a woman, stood up and said, “If we do not demonstrate the love of Christ in this place, who will?” And so the second motion passed. [The Christian Life, A Geography of God, p. 126)
That’s what we’re here for, Desmond Tutu said, right in the midst of the struggle to tear down the wall of apartheid in his country — to be the “word visible” — “an audiovisual for the world” he calls the church … this place where the walls come down and people are accepted and included and loved — in Christ, for who they are.
We all live behind some wall or another I suspect: pride, prejudice, walls of gender, or race, or nation, walls built on sexual identity, or class, or religion. Walls we have built carefully and lovingly over the years for protection and security. And for some of us, I suspect, the dividing wall has been imposed on us and for whatever reason we feel like strangers to God, aliens, outsiders because of something we have done or something we can’t believe, or who we are and who we aren’t and can’t be.
And the invitation is to tear it down and to stand up and live in the freedom of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, Ephesians 2:14