I don’t think I always understand the depth of the expression “Peace be with you.” During the time of Passing of the Peace in a church service, this expression is said repetitively and naturally; yet, when you think about it, it’s almost anything but natural. We are saying that we actually believe peace is possible in this crazy, messy world. It’s not simply a statement of hope—it is a great responsibility that should challenge us constantly. Pastor Lisa Yebuah says that her seminary education at Duke left her with a “holy haunting,” and author Stephen Long similarly writes of being “haunted by […] the specter of pacifism”… “It is the uncomfortable guest who will not leave.”
Why would anyone choose to be haunted by peace? Why would anyone choose to advocate for it? It’s much easier to not care, to walk away, to pledge allegiance to what’s normal and comfortable.
I love to read and to ask questions. I would be bored to death if I didn’t, but it also leaves my brain in a tangled, sloppy mess most of the time. My past peace intern Margie Quinn told me to find my simple truths. Loving people is hard and fun. God is bigger than the humongous, broken prison-industrial complex. Next, she said, ask questions “until [your] brain turns into noodles.” With this noodley brain, my life has taken on a unique texture and quality that bewitches and haunts me. I can’t un-know my heroes of social justice, like Bryan Stevenson or Margie Quinn. I can’t un-read Ta-Nehisi Coates or Desmond Tutu or Gloria Anzaldúa. I can’t un-see the prison letters from neglected and abused prisoners throughout the state of Alabama. I also can’t forget the memories of growing up in camp and wanting so desperately to understand my relationship to the universe, my visión cósmica. Maybe I chose to be haunted by peace or maybe it chose to haunt me. Either way, I’m sitting here at the Disciples home-base in Indianapolis with a great responsibility and privilege before me, and I’m wondering how to make “the uncomfortable guest who will not leave” feel like the only natural hope for people who claim to love a justice and peace-seeking God.
I have a lot of hopes for this summer, but most of all, I want us all to grow in our understanding of the power and potential of “Peace be with you.” With this expression, may we never take ourselves out of the conversation on peace and justice in this world.
Peace be with you,