Fear and hate are ripping and unraveling the fabric of humanity. The fabric isn’t made up of one color or type of thread, but many, many—and it is woven into a radiant, magnificent tapestry…a single, beautiful tapestry of humanity. But when horrifying incidents like the recent attacks on Paris slash at it, the tapestry risks getting shredded to pieces.
In reaction to what happened in France, a Facebook friend asked what to do when people are willing and wanting to die for their beliefs. The responses ranged from thoughtful to simplistic, but it was an interesting microcosm of what I’m sure many people are thinking and feeling. Fear. Frustration. Injustice. Despair. Anger…Hatred…
My heart hurts. It hurts for the tragic loss of lives, and for the understandable fear in response to terror. And it hurts for the growth of hate. Hate in response to hate.
All of it made me feel like hope had been gut punched by hate.
The reality that there might be terrorists walking right next to me—or my son—frightens me to my core. I think it is absolutely necessary and reasonable to work hard to battle these forces of hatred.
But if I let the fear push me away from embracing the fabric of humanity, then hate wins.
It’s not only terrorism that is working to unravel our tapestry, though. It may be easy to point a finger at that kind of hate, but we have other animosities we need to face, too.
In an article I wrote on a program that helps people find and keep jobs, I interviewed the program’s manager, Jacob Bosch. As we talked about the challenges of supporting people across America’s population, we spoke of Denmark and how the country is so supportive of its people. I asked him if he thought it was the fact that the country is so small (5.6 million people) that they were able to do this—and is this why America is so challenged in this regard? He responded, “It is not Denmark’s size that makes the difference. The difference is that the country is homogenous—overwhelmingly white, Lutheran—so the need to support one another is strong. You can’t write each other off. It’s too hard to turn your back on someone who is…you. With America’s diversity…and racism…it is easier to deny those who are perceived as ‘different.’”
He was basically stating that the differences we see in each other allow us to neglect one another. How sad. And the more I thought about it, how painfully true.
Mother Teresa stated that, “…if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other—that man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister. If everyone could see the image of God in his neighbor, do you think we would still need tanks and generals?”
The image of God is in…everyone. And if those of us who are Christian are to, as Mark tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31), then love should be the abiding force behind all that we do.
Not hate. Not fear. Not indifference.
If you haven’t read Gregory Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart, please put it on your “must read” list. Trust me on this one.
Father Boyle (he’s a Jesuit priest and founder of Homeboy Industries) shares that kinship is what happens when we refuse to forget that we belong to each other.
“Often we strike the high moral distance that separates ‘us’ from ‘them,’ and yet it is God’s dream come true when we recognize that there exists no daylight between us. Serving others is good. It’s a start. But it’s just the hallway that leads to the Grand Ballroom,” Boyle writes. “Kinship—not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not ‘a man for others’; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.” (Italics are mine.)
So…in this very trying of times, it still is not hate that should lead our way…but love. Now—I’m not suggesting that we just go hug a terrorist, and I recognize that all of this is very complex and difficult. What I am asking is that we remember, as we think through our responses, whether or not our actions will continue to shred the tapestry of humanity or attempt to mend it.
Sadly, I know some people will respond that they would rather have the fabric torn and separated, and I don’t think their minds are open to what I am saying here. Ultimately, I can only speak from my own heart…and hope.
Loving who we deem the unlovable is one of our (well, at least my) greatest challenges. It is one of the many reasons we need hope. Because it’s not easy, and we will fail time and again. But this is still what we are called to do. The differences that we see in one another are not reasons or excuses to turn our backs on one another—whether it’s across the ocean or the neighborhood. Let kinship prevail.
Hope may have taken a powerful hit, but…it still stands. Like Rocky, hope just keeps getting back up no matter how many times it gets pummeled. The least I can do is be in its corner doing my best to keep it going.