We heard about the Paris attacks late Friday evening and the Beirut attacks Saturday afternoon.
At one point, I recall thinking, “I don’t want to die.
I don’t want the people I love…or even know to die like that.”
Even though I know one day we are all going to go out in a blaze of glory or a whisper and dust, the thought of a violent death – life truncated – at the hands of terrorists is especially fierce to my soul.
Gruesome attempts to further the gulf between “Us v. Them”
Our grief gives way to fear and anger and then circles back to grief.
Each revolution from grief to fear to anger
speeds the intensity of our anguish
As parents, neighbors, lovers, and friends,
we look to obliterate today’s threats on our security.
As if bolting six more locks on our eveningtide doors will save us from a wiley nest of asps growing within the couch; consider Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynksi, Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold; David Berkovitz, and Dylann Roof to name a few.
We let fear rule our thinking
We claw and scheme to protect our own little piece of heaven
by strangers and neighbors.
We build up our fences and borders
protect our stuff
and debate whether to admit only this brand of refugee or that sort of fugitive.
We forgo real wisdom for self-righteous rhetoric and squeals towards war while
people of promise perish.
We acknowledge the death and violence in far-flung places
and want it only to get as close as a passing story on the telly or hateful facebook post.
We ignore the graciousness our ancestors received from the Wampanoag tribes in what became the tale…the myth of a shared Thanksgiving feast with beer and turkey. Our anglo ancestors were in flight for their lives. They were persecuted for their interpretation of faith. Expelled from the motherland.
We forget in the nation-of-churches-on-every-corner what is found in that sacred book, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27)
Some translations read “and to keep oneself unstained (or unpolluted) from the world.” This does not mean consider the worn and broken and bloody as “untouchable” and thereby excuse us from the first admonition of “caring for orphans and widows in their distress”.
It means – I believe – to not allow the careless and shallow values of an embattled world influence how we live out our days among community, strangers, and people who make us uncomfortable.
This is not a conversation about religion and relative merits of faith. Nor do I assume that only religious people do good-trust me on this one. That would be an asinine self-serving assumption and completely untrue.
This thought-in-print is about seeing people in need and doing what we can with what we have where we are (thanks again, Teddy Roosevelt).
Got homeless people in your city? Abused kids in your school? Hungry lonely senior citizens around the corner? Kids needing tutoring help and a toothbrush?
What small thing can we do to ease another’s suffering?
How would you wish citizens respond if you and yours were refugees?
Persecuted families in flight?
Hungry, penniless, and foreign nationals at your door?
Let’s replace our fear with our collective derring do.
People are dying while we debate their merits.