Tag Archives: fear

look of anger and fear

A humble alternative to anger and fear

It’s been a rough month. A friend recently reflected on it all by observing that she’s never had to rely so heavily on the “angry” and “sad” Facebook reactions. I haven’t been blogging much, because it’s been hard to know what to do with that anger and fear, other than talking about it all amongst ourselves on Facebook.

Let’s take Brock Turner. I’ve got nothing to add to that conversation. The stories that need to be told now are going to come from those whose voices have previously been silenced. I believe that the gospel message can have life-saving relevance to sexual victims. But I am not the one to offer it to them.

Or Pulse Nightclub. That was a hate crime against the marginalized… the very situation in which Christ’s words should be most relevant. But so many others have used my sacred texts to beat up those same people for so long, how can I now use them in the ways they were intended, for comfort and compassion and healing? It’s like the Billy Joel lyric, “If I only had the words to tell you, if you only knew how hard it is to say, when the simple lines have all been spoken, and the radio repeats them every day.”

I haven’t wanted to speak recently, because, if I’m being honest, it’s just easier not to. So many see the calm, gentle messages of the gospel as clueless: out-of-touch when confronted with actual pain or suffering (that, for example, is the entire plot of the hit musical “Book of Mormon“) as if Christ’s death and resurrection had included no taint of pain or suffering.

Loud voices today are shouting that given our reality, other than total disengagement, fear/anger is the only possible response. But that is a lie. Other engaged responses exist. Better ones. Ones that have power for good instead of evil.

Christ on trial was not afraid or angry, but silent. That doesn’t mean he didn’t understand what was happening.

Christ on the cross was certainly alone and in agony, but even then he chooses words— not of fear/anger— but of forgivenessreconciliationredemptiongrace.

If the Bible is wrong, if we were never made for other places than this, if the notion of heaven is mistaken, if the notion of God is mistaken, then by all means: be afraid if you like. It makes sense if this world is all there is.

But for those who agree with me that God is real, we cannot be the leading voices crying out for personal safety. Anyway we have no control over that, and meanwhile we have more important things to do.

However bad the neighborhood may get, however few we may become, however cold the love of most may grow, some of us at least will always be here crying out the gospel message: peace not anger, love not hate, good not evil.

I look around me, and I see the love burning quietly in so many hearts, and believe the promise of scripture: the light will always shine in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it.

Refugees: boy on street

Guns, flowers, refugees… and why I am not afraid

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.

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Photo credit: Bengin Ahmad / Foter.com /CC BY-ND