Drawn to Gaza


Like many of you, I have turned my attention to the Middle East this week. There is no way for me to address the fuller context here (click here for some further thoughts from our friend Katie Archibald-Woodward), though I thought CNN captured it well in a split-screen which showed the opening of the American Embassy on one side and the protests in Gaza on the other.

This part of the world has a special claim on my life, as my wife Elizabeth and I lived in the West Bank from 2000 to 2003. The village we called home, Zababdeh, had a majority Christian population, and the Catholic school where we taught was half-Christian and half-Muslim, both among students and staff. They welcomed us, though strangers, and taught us the true meaning of hospitality.

So whenever Israel and Palestine enter the news cycle, my mind races back to these precious friends. And though Zababdeh is a long way from Gaza, my heart breaks whenever I see gross injustice leading to violence and death. As a Christian, I still claim the hope of the gospel, of better days to come, of the end of bloodshed, of the arrival of God's promised vision of how we ought to live together. And I hold that in tension with the realities I see in the world, where it seems so dauntingly devoid of that same promise.

I want to lay hold to the words made famous by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." And yet, most days I feel like Ta-Nehisi Coates gets it right, that "its moral arc [bends] toward chaos then [concludes] in a box."

We started this podcast a little over a year ago to wrestle with this dichotomy, and to focus on the role that art can play in such wrestling. At a Gaza solidarity demonstration in Atlanta last night, were heard prayers sung in Hebrew, that "nation would not lift up sword against nation." We heard songs sung in Arabic, asking, "When will I see you safe in comfort, sound and honored, reaching for the stars?" And as we marched, the drums quickened our steps and our chants for freedom and justice.

For me, music has always been a sacred language, giving voice and feeling to things that I am challenged to express otherwise. A couple of years ago, I wrote a song called Drawn that sits at this intersection of King and Coates, desperate for the hope to which I cling, yet firmly rooted in the reality of a world that can be so hopeless. In the final verse, I sing: "The bend of the arc lies beyond the horizon, or so I've been told to believe. But here's where we're dying. No tears left for crying, not even a moment to grieve."

This song has been about many things over the past few years: Ferguson, Charleston, Charlottesville, the list goes on. Today, it's about Gaza, with hopes that grace, justice, and beauty would take hold.