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Light pushes away darkness
By Sam Morris*
November 21, 2015
Recently, I heard about a widely publicized
event, sponsored in a United Methodist Church,
involving the group Christians United for
Israel (CUFI). CUFI promotes unconditional
Christian support for the State of Israel
that inevitably includes support for policies
of oppression, violations of human rights, and flouting of international law, based in great part on erroneous and damaging interpretations of the Bible.
I both know and don't know why such an event like this saddens me so much. It is the blindness, the misuse of scripture, the ignorance it represents, and the inhumanity it validates. We may choose a path or let the path choose us. People don't even understand why they are afraid or why the assumptions they make are so dehumanizing for themselves and others. The path has chosen them and blinded them to any other way.
It is important that those of us who have chosen a different path show up at these events, if for no other reason than to provide a different presence and perhaps to present another perspective, if we have the opportunity.
In 2007, I was visiting Palestine to introduce the concert maestro Robert McBain to the Palestinian Youth Orchestra (PYO). The maestro was there to rehearse the PYO for the Christmas concert in Bethlehem. The concert in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve involved one hundred sixty American singers, forty-two members of the PYO, and four international opera stars (one of the MET stars was an Israeli from Tel Aviv, living in NYC). It was October. The title of the concert was “Prepare the Way, Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.”
The first day of rehearsal was long. At the end of that day, a 17-year-old member of the PYO, when given the opportunity, asked a question. Rising with great pride and conviction in her voice, she said, “I want to know why you came to this terrorist nation.” We were in the West Bank in an older Birzeit University dorm and would be there for a week. I heard her. It was the question of the woman at the well when she asked Jesus, “How can you, a Jew, ask me a Samaritan for a drink when you Jews do not eat from our dishes?” (John 4:9) The Palestinian girl’s question to me really was, “How can you, an American, make the music of peace with me, when your country calls me a terrorist?” For a moment our eyes met and held. She waited. My response was simple. There were no words to say. I said to her, “I cannot answer you today; but, before this week is over, I promise you, I will.” In simple acts of sharing a meal, laughter, cleaning the dishes, preparing the meal, sweeping the floor, conversations after rehearsals, we had all become family and the world, for me, felt warmer and more beautiful.
I am sad for those who cannot see, whose ears are closed to the cries of others, and who choose to live in the darkness of fear. And I pray for the day when love overcomes the barriers, binds up the broken hearts and heals the wounds.
I share this because it has been so hard for me not to surrender to anger and bitterness toward those who perpetuate and promote, knowingly or not, injustice and inhumanity, who exploit others for their own security. It was the words of Jesus echoing over and over. “Love those who hate you, despitefully use you and persecute you.” We must not let the haters, those who are afraid of the truth, and those who willfully ignore the grief and suffering of others, win.
My advice to those peace and justice advocates who might decide to attend such an event as the one I heard about: If you go, walk proud. Let your light shine. Draw a contrasting experience if you have a chance. It may be as simple as saying “That has not been my experience.” Don't let the hasbara (propaganda) push you back. You are strong even when you feel weak, for the truth will triumph. Light will one day push away the darkness.
*Dr. Sam Morris serves as Director of an extension ministry appointment from the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church to the Society for Biblical Exploration (SBE). Concurrently Morris serves as President for the Jerusalem Institute for Biblical Exploration. Each of these organizations devotes time to education and pilgrimage through responsible travel in the Holy Land. Morris is a member of the UMKR Tourism Committee, which also actively promotes responsible tourism in the Holy Land.