Difference (Guest Post)

*This post is shared with permission from it’s author, a student pastor and Iraq veteran at Duke Divinity. It had been shared with Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas, who referred Bryan to me. 
“I am Difference”
By: Rev. Bryan Wilson—Cpl. USMC
My difference. comes in many ways and through many means.
I have loved in ways that nearly destroyed me.
Gone places I should have never been.
I have fought wars, and lived in world’s of violence you call unnatural.
But calling them unnatural you suppose a natural based upon your world.
My old world of violence is the clear locus of my difference.
There. Lives saved. Lives taken.
 Brothers buried.
Not for country or cause but for love of another.
Love of another at the expense of another.
Love’s a costly sin.
You say, “it’s not normal that I should shoot and be shot at.  It’s not normal that things blow up and bodies be mutilated”, but…
what you don’t realize is that I was at war.
Nothing could have been more normal in that world of violence.
In a violent world I am a violent man.
I am no longer in a violent world.
That world has been apocalypsed by another.
I will not kill here.
Even here, in your peaceful kingdom, I am difference,
And you look at my difference as a problem, like I have given up part of who I am.
I have given up nothing, only added to. [blessing to church]
I add to, not because I grasp but because I am obstinately open.
I am open to the world.
This is how I know many worlds.
And now I occupy a new world, one that found me.
My difference is not a problem.
My difference is not a question.
My difference is mystery.
My difference is strength.
Then again, my difference may be the site of my destruction.
But I am not sick neither am I in denial.
It is you who have looked at my difference and called it a pathogen,
a pathogen that must be destroyed.
But you would never say “destroyed.”
You say “healed.”
You mean destroyed.
You would destroy, and then you would be like me.
I too have destroyed.
You destroy, you “heal”,  because you cannot understand.
How could you?
You know not of my world.
But if you would embrace me as brother instead of other, you would discover your own humanity.
You see, I stand before you not as: a puzzle to be solved, a prop for an argument, or an object of your pity.
I stand before you not as one who “fought for your freedom”, but as one who was violent in a violent world.
Now, brother, you do not know me because I am your limit.
My difference is your limit.
My person is your limit.
“This far your proud waves have come, but they will come no further.”
Won’t you let me be strong and not sick?
Won’t you let me be difference and not victim?
Won’t you let me be Bryan [brother] and not brute?
I am no brute.
I know your peaceful kingdom.
And here in your peaceful kingdom I know my violence is not needed.
So I act without violence.
Even God has not asked me not to be who I am;
instead God found me and bound me, difference and all, to Himself.
Bound through water.
Bound by Spirit.
Bound to a Body.
I am not healed, because I am not damaged.
And holy work illuminates my strange strengths.
Now come to me, brother.
 Come to me as mystery,
but do not solve me.
 Come to me as limit as I come to you—my limit.
There, in our holy limiting space, God is imaged.
Imaged as differences embraced.
Embraced not by grasping but by opening.
Opening to difference.
I am difference, and so can you

One thought on “Difference (Guest Post)

  1. I am replying in the comments because I want to leave the poem unaltered. Upon reading it, I noticed the similarity between the poet’s use of “peaceful kingdom” and Haueraws’ popular primer for Christian ethics, “The Peaceable Kingdom.” I do not know why Willimon encouraged the author to share it with Hauerwas, but this similarity may have informed that suggestion. If so, this comes off as rather critical of Hauerwas, as being unfairly categorizing war or veterans as “unnatural” and “not normal.” Hauerwas’ response made it seem like he didn’t read it very closely, if my interpretation is correct; Hauerwas thanks Wilson for “refusing to be ‘the problem'” where in fact, it would the theologians like him who are the subject of Wilson’s criticism.

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