Peace where there is no peace

Quick placation following the devastation in Las Vegas

By Alexis Waggoner | 10.12.2017

Will there be no peace? Following the Las Vegas attacks last week, Diane Feinstein beseeched the American people in the fight for gun control: "Help us,” she said. "We know the power that is on the other side. You have to stand up for this.” And then the NRA also stood up in support of a ban on bump stock — the device used by the Las Vegas shooter to turn semi-automatic weapons into rapid-fire guns. At first it seems like a good, bipartisan move. But it makes me wonder if the NRA is looking for a way to placate gun control activists, and stop them from getting more robust legislation on the table.

I am optimistic, but I’m also fearful that after Sandyhook, when we failed to institute any real gun control change, we essentially said: the death of children is a price we’re willing to pay for our “right” to bear “arms.” I don’t know how a nation, a community, comes back from that.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, Ezekiel 13:8-10 speaks to a false sense of security that poor leaders want the people to experience:

"Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have uttered falsehood and envisioned lies, I am against you, says the Lord God. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations; they shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel; and you shall know that I am the Lord God. Because, in truth, because they have misled my people, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace; and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear whitewash on it."

Even if the people “build a wall” of calls, letters, and activism on behalf of countless gun violence victims and advocate for gun control, will our “prophets” whitewash the painful and bloody truth at the heart of our efforts? The NRA’s pockets are deep and they’re counting on the fact that our collective memory is short.

I am not one to compare the plight of America to that of ancient Israel; to make God’s words of judgement against false prophets correlate to our situation in 2017. Instead I try to understand the context, the message to the original audience. Then I ask what we can learn about how the story presents God, and how this knowledge could be meaningful for our lives today.

What we learn from Ezekiel — and from other prophets during this time — is that Israel is just.getting.it.wrong. Bad kings are propping up false prophets. True prophets are afraid to speak. The people are being led astray. They aren’t living up to the ideals of their divine/human relationship. Ezekiel is admonishing repentance lest the Israelite way of life be destroyed. And he lives to see this cautionary tale become reality: Jerusalem is destroyed, Israel is conquered, and many Israelites are taken into captivity.

But according to Ezekiel we also learn that God is calling God’s people back. Ezekiel isn’t the first prophet to bring this message — God is giving the nation a multitude of chances. And even when they finally get it wrong for the “last” time … even after their homeland is destroyed and they are exiled, God invites them into renewed relationship: both physically, as they eventually return to Jerusalem; and spiritually, as they re-commit to God and bring about change in Babylon.

So no, we can’t and shouldn’t draw direct comparisons between America and Israel. To do so is theological malpractice. But we can look at what the author wants us to know about God: that false prophecy, whitewashing, declaring peace in the midst of violence, failing to properly lead the people — these things are abhorrent to God. And yet Ezekiel outlines how there are continual opportunities for repentance. In spite of our white-washing, our search for quick placation, and leaders who behave more like false prophets, we are being invited — at any time — to turn away from a path of domination, destruction, and oppression in order to chose the pursuit of true peace.

Photo of Alexis Waggoner

As Marketing and Digital Education Director, Alexis Waggoner works closely with both Westar’s Marketing Committee and the Executive Director to advance the presence and value of Westar in our culture through social media and the use of digital media in public education. Alexis brings to Westar a unique blend of digital marketing and religious education experience. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary.