Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
This Week at Plymouth, October 27, 2023
“I have seen more images than I care to count of dead children, women, and men . . . A part of me wants to look away. To not bear suffering vicariously through them. And it hit me: they can’t look away. They can’t run. All they can do is yell, grieve, and hope that today in not their day” —Danté Stewart
In a recent conversation with clergy colleagues about terrorism and violence in Israel-Palestine, we reflected on the roles we assume when speaking about what’s happening. We distinguished our responsibilities in the pulpit, classroom, panel discussions, and written articles and reflections, recognizing that each medium requires different approaches and responsibilities. As our conversation trailed off, I felt compelled to articulate the subtext of our conversation: sometimes, there is no good news to share. I’m not talking about the good news of God’s boundless grace, mercy, and forgiveness that rescues us. I’m talking about how that good news doesn’t end the death, violence, and destruction we are witnessing. What do we do with that bad news? How do we carry the struggle of those killed and those who dodge the bombs and bullets to survive one more day?
I was grateful to the writer Danté Stewart, who courageously articulated the tragic, traumatic experience of the dead without reinforcing the tribal or ethnic divisions among the dead. He did not see only dead Israelis or just dead Palestinians. He saw “more images than I care to count of dead children, women, and men.” Perhaps, if we do not look away, if we let the cries of pain echo in our hearts and minds, we will be inspired to advocate and agitate for peace of every soul in the region and not allow politics and ideology preclude us from responding to both the Palestinians and Israelis with dignity, equity, and compassion.
Those competing for power in politics bombard us with binary choices and oversimplified justifications for their actions. They pressure us to pick a side regardless of the complexity of an issue or the plight of the casualties left in the wake of the rough and tumble of political and military combat. In our anger and grievance, we may assume that we are not allowed to grieve the loss, pain, and suffering of those with whom we are in conflict. And yet, Israelis and Palestinians both live in that vulnerable space that the Psalmist laments: “I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me” (Psalm 31:11). I know we can engage our political agendas and respect our political opponents’ voices, rights, and humanity. We can press the case for the human rights of the historically oppressed in every region and condemn the antisemitism and Islamophobia deployed to deny life and dignity. I pray for God’s peace and graciousness on every soul.