You’ve probably seen it by now. A little boy and his dad are being interviewed about the recent attacks in Paris. He wants to move away to escape the terrorists who, he explains, have guns, prompting this (excerpted) exchange:
- They have guns but we have flowers.
- But flowers don’t do anything!
- Of course they do. Look, everyone is putting flowers. It’s to fight against the guns.
- It’s to protect?
- Exactly. Do you feel better now?
- Yes… I feel better.
Is this exchange inspiring or hopelessly naïve? Is the father simply lying to provide an illusion of safety, or does he have some kind of valid point? The questions of safety and danger are on everybody’s minds right now, especially as we in the U.S. weigh whether to participate in the sheltering of refugees fleeing from ISIS. What does the Bible have to say?
Illusion of safety
The little boy in this video has a tragically valid concern: getting shot. The father gives him a soothing answer, but is there a better answer? Something he could say or do to actually assure his son’s safety? Of course not.
We all want to feel safe, but we live in an unsafe world. If the little boy feels better because he has a flower, an adult perspective recognizes that as just a calming illusion. But we all are clinging to calming illusions. Some places in the world are more violent, some less so, and it is worth working to reduce violence, but also remember that, if you’re reading this, you live someplace with enough violence to worry about and it’s going to be that way for a while. The father could have said, “We have guns too and we’re going to keep you safe,” but we have more guns in the U.S. than any other developed country and violence still exists here. So as we advocate for our particular solutions, we must also figure out how to keep getting out of bed in the morning even if violence is never solved, and that is where the flowers come in.
How “the flowers” fight
From “love your enemies” to “do not resist one who is evil” to “all who draw the sword will die by the sword“, Christ’s response to violence is nonviolence and submission. There is no exception for us; we are commanded to take up the cross as well.
The whole point of forgiveness and love is that it takes the power away from the terrorists. It is not the result of stupidity, ignorance, or naïveté. There are other words for facing danger without fear. They are words like bravery, self-sacrifice, heroism… the firefighters did not rush into the World Trades on 9/11 because they were unaware of the danger.
Where, then, should we stand when there is a choice between heroism and danger? If we can save some innocent lives, should we not be willing to risk even our own lives to do so? Up to now, the whole argument on accepting refugees has been, “Is it dangerous or isn’t it?” To me, both arguments are nonsense. Resisting evil is always dangerous.
Into danger, unafraid
It was dangerous to operate the Underground Railroad. It was dangerous to confront Apartheid. It was dangerous to shelter Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide, to inscribe the names on Schindler’s List, to harbor the family of Anne Frank. It was dangerous for Christ to go into Jerusalem. All of those people walked into danger with their eyes open. Many of them paid with their lives. I don’t think any of them had regrets.
The dustbins of history are littered with the names of those who chose their own prosaic safety rather than stand up to a monstrous evil. When we consign the innocent to their fate in Syria, we number ourselves among them. We buy our illusion of safety at the price of our humanity. Because the reality is, we are no safer for our refusal to help the victims. We are in constant danger regardless.
When attacks come, if we are marked to die, we should at least be buried in hallowed ground. We should cry out our defiance. We should plant flowers on the graves of our fears.
We should shelter the refugees.
We are still, above all, the home of the brave.
Other recommended posts:
- Jory Micah — Why I think we should let some Syrian refugees into America
- April Fiet — Fear and Self-Fulfilling Prophesies