On Armistice Day there is a long held practice to keep silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. The day is meant to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I. This year will mark the one hundredth anniversary of that day. Although the soldiers of that day are no longer with us to reflect on the silence of that moment in history, many have told their tale over the years. They have told their stories in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. Do we still have people among us who can remember when God spoke clearly to humankind?
Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day in America. Armistice Day was sacred, a reverence for life in the wake of the destruction of World War 1. We have made Veteran’s Day yet another Memorial day, a day to praise the military and their willingness to fight. We mock its original sacredness by making it a day to celebrate military might, instead of remembering the death that wars bring and the sacred silence at the end of such devastation.
You may be asking why I am writing about a November Holiday in April. Well, this is what came to mind when I saw Emma Gonzalez stand in silence on that stage in DC for six minutes and twenty seconds, the length of time it took a previous student of Parkland to kill seventeen other kids. As she wept in silence, I think many heard God speaking clearly to our humanity in that moment. Did God say to you, “When will the violence end?” “When will the weapons of war be turned into plows?” “When will Cain quit killing Abel?”
In that silence, I wondered how many of us are still in the business of raising Cain in this world? How many of us teach our kids that the only way to get ahead is to compete for every inch of wealth they can get by any means necessary? Don’t get me wrong, I think ambition is beneficial, but often I wonder if our expectations of security and success set the competitive stage that creates a world full of Cains.
We raise chants of pride to the greatness of our nation in comparison to other nations, proclaiming ourselves as “lord” over this earth. We teach our kids to believe that security can only come through fighting violence with violence. There are so many ways that we exclaim at the top of our lungs our “fight for freedom.”
But, I find we are mostly still captives. We are still stuck in binary choices of “us” versus “them”, with little hope for our humanity to become a “we.” Our “freedom” is at the expense of others, which isn’t freedom at all, its conquest. Our history is riddled with this inconvenient truth. We live by a spirit of fear, and that fear was set ablaze anew after 9/11 and we have yet to come to terms with the reality that we are dying by the swords of our own making.
In the silence of those six minutes, as I looked at my Holy Week preparations, I was struck mute by the truth. Scripture tells us that the truth is what sets us free, and in that moment the truth of the state of our humanity set me free of the status quo. The “thoughts and prayers” for the end to gun violence seemed as empty as “thoughts and prayers” for the safety of “our” troops during World War 1. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stood on that stage with nothing, but the raw unvarnished nauseating truth of what an AR15 rot upon their lives.
May we see beyond our differences and decide to sign another armistice for our humanity. May we decide to put down the weapons of war that have never brought us peace or security. May we resist the urge to justify the injustices of our present and our past. May we redeem our mistakes by taking the first steps of discipleship by repenting of the conqueror’s narrative. May we halt our desire to victimize the victims of Parkland by labeling them as “paid actors” for the convenience of clearing our conscience. May we just for once try to sit in silence and hear the voice of God speak truth to our weak form of power. May we experience a true resurrection of Christ into our being.
Hurst Christian Church