Leader: Please use or adapt the following process to help your group reflect and respond to the recent tragic event in Nice, France.
Share with the group some news stories about the Nice attacks. This one has a video component and this one gives facts, but has a lively (and disturbing) comments section that might elicit some good conversation on its own. You may also have some video or news content to share that you find particularly meaningful in sharing this story. After sharing this news, ask questions like:
- What are your immediate feelings when you hear this story and why?
- How do you feel about what you hear other people say and do about this news and why?
- What are some of the common threads you’re seeing in the various violent tragedies that have been occurring in countries all over the world this summer, and why?
- While the stated reasons, victims, and communities in various events of this nature vary widely, why do you think people feel such a strong need to hurt others?
- To what degree do you think that this emerging sense of worldwide crisis is driven by the media, our access to information, or other factors that are unique to our times?
Read together Psalm 10 and tell the group:
*There are a number of what they call “imprecatory” Psalms, where the psalmist calls for God to avenge the people in the face of their enemies, but this one may speak to current events better than any other. You can read it with the attitude that your enemies are “bad people” – and the psalmist paints a vivid picture of the mindset of what many of us would consider to be “bad people.” You can also read it with the attitude that God’s people are suffering, particularly the poor and innocent, but they can still have confidence throughout their struggles that God is standing behind them, helping to ultimately set the world right. Like many other art forms, the perspective you put into reading a psalm affects your understanding of it.
As violent and troubling events occur, we know that whether it’s masses of randomly killed innocents or a much smaller number of deliberately killed servants of peace, it’s still people trying to deal with their pain by hurting as many people as possible, and it cuts at our soul. For many, the temptation to give into the spirit of the times and develop violent and reactive impulses of our own can be overwhelming, and this is reflected by the media in virtually every format. When people become sufficiently afraid and angry, they can lose site of their own values. If people of faith, in such times, lose the ability to hold up that light and call people to be true to their better selves, we may have lost everything, and times like these challenge our abilities to live that way…
In a world where it is easy to give into despair, it’s good to know that God still cares about us and will hear us, just as God stood behind the children of Israel when these psalms were written. If we cry out to God, instead of giving into the same kind of rage and pain that has driven so many people to such extremes. the Psalms offer the promise that God is with us despite the suffering that the world is seeing at the hands of individuals and groups. Cultivating hope and love is a better answer than reacting out of fear and anger.*
- In what way do your feelings about recent world events affect the way that you hear this Psalm and why?
- What are similarities and differences between the people who the psalmist considered to be “evil,” and people who we might characterize as “evil” today?
- In what other ways did the psalmist identify some modern issues or attitudes?
- When have recent events made you feel either the absence or presence of God?
- What do you think God’s justice for our times should look like and why?
- If you were to write such a psalm for today, what kinds of things would you put in it and why?
Share the Tom Joad speech with the group and ask questions like:
- In what ways is the content of this speech similar to the content of the Psalm?
- If you could imagine God giving us such a speech today, what might the speech say?
- In what ways might you be able to adopt the spirit of this speech in the space of all the anger and violence the world is seeing today?
Share with the group this article about a town in Denmark and continue by asking:
- How do you feel about the content of this article and why?
- In what way might our faith call for adopting such an approach to this problem?
- What other approaches to violence and hatred might our faith be calling us to undertake?
- In what ways can we be “salt and light” to a world that is seeing such turmoil?
Close with a prayer that contains this paraphrase of the psalm:
Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
We have allowed the persecution of the poor— let them be caught in our petty schemes
We’ve sat on the sidelines while those greedy for gain curse and renounce you and all standards of decency.
We’ve silently complied with those who say “Ours is the only correct faith in God:” “God will not intervene;” and “There is no God” to justify their actions
The world views you as far away, unable or unwilling to intervene in our times and our schemes.
People think in their heart, “We do not need to change what we’re doing. We can enrich ourselves now and forget about consequences.”
Our spokespersons are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; making their living off the marketing of suspicion and violence.
Our enemy sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places they murder the innocent. Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert; they lurk that they may seize the poor; they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.
They stoop, they crouch, and the helpless fall by their might.
For they are, in their heart, the people who we might become, saying “God has forgotten us, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed.
Why are we continually silent when people renounce God, and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?
But you do see! You see the world’s trouble and grief, and your heart breaks. You see us lose hope and you call for justice and reconciliation.
Help us to live lives worthy of your call, where we meet hate with love, violence with peace, fear with hope.
O Lord, hear the desire of the meek; strengthen their heart, incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
for the peaceful and innocent,
so that those who have lost their way and have forsaken all hope may strike terror no more.
By David Adams