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A Welcome Mat of Peace

September 19, 2011

By Monica A. Coleman

How can we have peace in the Middle East
When there's none at home?

These are the opening lines to one of my favorite songs by jazz vocalist Rachelle Ferrell. The capstone to her self-titled 1992 album, "Peace on Earth," speaks before and beyond the time of its recording.

I first began using this song in faith communities in the late 1990s when I coordinated a church response to sexual violence. Surprising the congregation with the inclusion of a "secular" song, the ministry asked about how we dare pose questions of global magnitude when we have so much work to do at home. This was not meant as a commentary on current politics. It was designed to raise the issue of intimate violence.

Ferrell continues:

To my left a woman abuses her children
To my right somebody's beating his wife

As someone who has spent the last fifteen years speaking out against sexual and domestic violence, I can attest to one thing: most of our violence happens at home—quietly, under long-sleeved t-shirts, with lowered eyelids, in shameful fists, between pursed lips and tearing eyes. Most violence in the United States is not the picture of global terrorism; rather, it is the faded photo of our personal relationships.

I hear Ferrell's lyrics again in new tones at the ten-year anniversary of September 11. I hear it as a reminder that working for peace must begin in our houses and in our communities.

At the 40th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival, Ferrell lingers over one line of the song that seems particularly relevant now:

Where is the love?
Where is the God in your life?

She asks again and again: where is the God, where is the God, where is the God in your life?

Read the rest of this article at Patheos.com here.

Monica A. Coleman is Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University.


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