By Steven Norris

     Once again, news sources are filled with images of neighborhoods that have become war zones — burned out cars, apartment buildings reduced to rubble, dead bodies in the streets. I have been encouraged to pray for “peace in the Middle East” for as long as I can remember. Is there such a thing as “outrage-fatigue?” The provocation of terrorists on one side of the conflict can hardly excuse scores of dead women and children from the retaliation of the other side.

     This week, I came across a powerful poem from Ann Weems entitled, “I No Longer Pray for Peace.” It struck a deep chord in me as I pondered its opening lines, “On the edge of war, one foot already in, / I no longer pray for peace: / I pray for miracles.” (I would encourage everyone to go read that poem in its entirety.)

     Similarly, I find myself no longer praying for peace, but praying for the power of memory. In the midst of outrage, senseless deaths, and endless calls for revenge, I pray that we will not succumb to the spiritual amnesia that unmoors us from our identity as people of faith. I pray that we do not lose that hard-won wisdom that comes from the sanctifying work of the Spirit and our meditation on the words of scripture.

     For example, the psalmist writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).

     Writing to a people under threat, the prophet Isaiah writes, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved…But you would have none of it. You said, No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle…” (Isaiah 30:15-16).

     To a people under Roman occupation, Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).

     To a persecuted church, the apostle Paul said, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God…Dont let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:19, 21). Elsewhere, he reminds us, “…though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).

     I am not a politician. I don’t have answers to the complex questions of multi-national diplomacy or military strategy. I am a pastor and a theologian. However, I know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was absolutely correct when he wrote, Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

     I pray that our grief and outrage will not lead us to a spiritual dementia where we forget who we truly are.