Starting last week, every Wednesday at noon from now on, I am going to stand on a busy intersection – the corner of Columbia Road NW and 16th Street – and hold a sign that says, “Pray for Ceasefire.” You are welcome to join me, drive by and honk, jeer, or ignore me altogether. I will be praying earnestly for peace in Palestine and Israel.
Since the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas that started on October 7 and the beginning of what appears to be a wholesale destruction of Gaza by Israeli military forces, I have watched a lot of justice and faith organizations come out with statements about the violence. As I have read a few of these statements, especially those by Christian organizations, there is something that doesn’t really sit right with me. It’s not so much what they say…well, it’s a little about what they say. It feels like far too many justice/Christian organizations are trying so hard to sound prophetic – to say some magic words that will pierce through the dizzying amount of pain and devastation being felt by so many people. So far, I have not been all that impressed with these kinds of prophetic attempts.
Let me explain.
I worked for the advocacy office of the United Methodist Church for a bunch of years and to be frank, I was so irritated every time something happened in the world and I heard United Methodist bishops and other church “leaders” say something like, “we need to say something prophetic.” They made it seem like the origin of speaking and acting prophetically were located in our own ingenuity and imagination. In reality, to speak and move prophetically is to speak and move with the mind and heart of God, born of God’s Spirit. Thus, it is incumbent that our hearts and minds are in pursuit of God.
So, I have watched organizations and denominations, with the best of intentions, fumble around for the right words to use; words that do not further harm, words that heal and clarify, words that bring light into darkness. And if I am being completely honest, I don’t have a clue as to what those words are right now. I really don’t.
But here is what I do know.
I have heard from Jewish friends who have friends and family in Israel who either have barely escaped harm or who know of other friends and loved ones who have been taken hostage or killed. And I cannot even imagine the depth of fear and sadness and anger that so many Israeli families are feeling from having loved ones murdered or snatched away from them and being held hostage to this day. I cannot imagine.
I have heard from Palestinians in DC who I have worked alongside of who are heartbroken and deeply angry about the generational and impending violence to the lives and homes of loved ones and family members. And I cannot even imagine the depth of anger and sadness and the powerlessness of watching massive violence being used so indiscriminately against their people. I cannot imagine.
I cannot imagine the misery or the pain or the rage. So, that is why I cannot issue statements that make it seem I can imagine all of those things. I cannot explain why any of this is happening. This is why I decided, as soon as the Hamas attacks began, that me speaking out would offer next to nothing valuable. So, instead, I have listened. I have prayed. I have tried to feel the utter brokenness that I am sensing is so prevalent.
I have also marched and protested, but I am only engaging in public protests when those protests are led by Jews and Palestinians together. I will follow their lead. Groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now have truly moved prophetically in a way that no Christian group has or can.
Last week I marched with Jews and Palestinians and together we sang a song in Hebrew about the vision found in Isaiah and Micah about the last days when the nations of the world stream to the mountain of the Lord to seek God’s wisdom and judgment. The image of people doing the hard work of peacebuilding as they beat weapons into plowshares is perhaps the most beautiful image in all of Scripture. It was a deeply moving time together, marching and singing that beautiful song together, prayerfully willing that image into reality today.
On that day, we marched to Capitol Hill to demand that Congress not do what Congress always seems to do – make a bad situation worse through military aid. We need authentic peace, not retribution. There is absolutely nothing that taking another life will solve. And there is absolutely nothing in the history of the United States that shows how our military interventions have ever created real and lasting peace. And we need real and lasting peace now more than ever. This is why I am earnestly praying for a ceasefire now.
So, if you need me, I will be the dude with the peace sign that says “Pray for Ceasefire” on the corner of Columbia Road NW and 16th Street every Wednesday at noon. Join me, bring a sign that urges prayer for a ceasefire or release of the hostages, and let’s pray and listen together. We need God desperately right now. We need peace.