His breathing is rapid. His arms unsteady as the adrenaline ebbs from his muscles. Blood splattered the ground. By violence he intended to stop the inevitable course of events. Yet instead of being a hero, he became the object of a teachable moment.
As a person of the christian faith, this scene of the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane resonates deeply within, as events portrayed here bring us ever closer to the passion of Jesus. As a gay person I also see other dynamics at play as Peter wields his sword as a crazed and fearful individual. His back is up against the proverbial wall. The betrayer and the soldiers have arrived to drag Jesus off. Peter's life, his world view, his understanding of how reality is structured is threatened to be extinguished. So he acts. He acts out of love, or fear, or desperation, or a combination. He acts by lashing out. This arrest cannot go forward. This cohort of sinister intentions must be stopped. But they cannot be stopped and Peter must humble himself in the face of history's movement.
Peter reminds me of the anti-gay folks. History's current (at least for the moment) is moving toward marriage equality and full rights for gays and lesbians. We do face "Peters" with their drawn swords, and make no mistake they are out for blood. In these times of celebration let us not forget to steady ourselves for the violent lashing out of our detractors.
This is one of the reasons I believe we must bring our haters along with us. We must help those who have privilege and station to understand why, when those things are denied to some individuals, the wider community suffers. Peter is angry at Judas, at the Roman's, at the powers that be, but it's a slave's ear that gets cut off: Judas, the Roman's, and the powers that be escape unharmed. In our anger and in our frustrations we must not lose our civility and the appreciation that being in conversation is the most powerful tool we have.
Russia can be bombastic about it's anti-gay laws. The Olympic Committee can pander about like a pompous buffoon. Families can turn us out onto the street. Yet the inexorable march of gay rights moves forward one conversation at a time inviting people to examine their unconscious structure of sex and sexuality, or gender roles and assumed norms.
I am no romantic, it takes hard, hard work for these conversations to shift dominate thinking patterns. It also takes a mutual willingness for those in dialogue to hear, respect, and revision reality together. But I think Jesus is right in pointing out that the alternative of blood splattered swords and earless slaves lessens all of us.