As I write this, the city of Baltimore is in a state of uneasy and fragile peace. I’m not going to go too far in to the issues of racial tension, politics and economics that have led to this situation. Instead, I am going to make a few comments about things that have risen literally out of the ashes of this horrible event.
First, there are accounts after accounts of strangers assembling and helping to clean up the mess left after the riots. They are not just from the local area, they are people from beyond the Baltimore City limits, beyond the Baltimore County limits, even beyond the Maryland limits. People are showing again and again the true spirit of compassion and community in the midst of this very tense situation. Let’s hope some of the helpers are Orthodox.
Even more awesome from my point of view was the assembly of clergy that assembled during the riots and went to both police and protestor and asked that they keep their restraint (on the part of the police) and that they disband, stop looting and harming and simply go home (on the part of the rioters). The images I saw reminded me of the clergy standing in no-man’s-land during the Ukrainian uprisings last year. The clergy were a testimony to the awesome power and the peace that come from out Triune God alone. It was beautiful to see.
It was also a bit humbling. I wondered if this was Pittsburgh (or New Castle — and don’t kid yourselves, it can happen anywhere), would I stand with those clergy? I hope that I would be brave enough to do something like that, rather than just be glued to my TV, wondering what was on next after the Special News Bulletin was over.
It is a matter up for much debate, the question of our role as Christians in society. Are we to be content to make sure our concerns are protected, that we should be able to worship without any infringement on our liberty and that is enough? Or are we called to be engaged in the community, and in a case like this to be agents of peace and reconciliation?? These are questions that won’t be answered here, and probably won’t even be addressed in any immediate timeframe. Bishop Thomas sent out an email this week that I forwarded to you requesting prayer. Indeed, we are to pray for those who hate us as well as love us. But more so: we are supposed to love both types of people. By loving them we lose the passionate desire for revenge, for retribution. We also do what we can to limit the suffering of the just and the unjust. We are expected to desire the salvation of all.
And most troubling, there are times when our actions bring about the suffering of others. Sometimes we cause this and we are unaware that we are doing it. This is a result of us being sinners in a sinful world. I have often used this phrase: “Don’t let another person be an impediment to your salvation.” Likewise, do all you can to prevent your actions or your inactions, your words or your deeds, your willfulness or your obligations from being an impediment to someone else’s salvation. Yes, this is hard to do. Yes, you can only truly be concerned about your own salvation. But we are more than just a collection of individuals, and we are more than just the crypt-keepers of some ancient and precious truth. We have a holy obligation to bring Christ’s message of peace, restoration, life and love to the world. Sinful as we are, we are bound to mess up at points. When we do it is important to confess and repent, to forgive and reconcile.
My prayers continue for the city of Baltimore, the city of my father’s birth, and a place that is quite dear to me. But my prayers are more fervent that all of us can learn from the positive examples that have come to light during this tense time, and that we can share in their positive message, bringing healing and health to the communities that we are a part of in our daily lives.