“Love’s in need of love today” ~Stevie Wonder.
Life is an act of faith. It is also fragile. Each morning when we wake up, we go out into the world fully expecting to return safe and sound, even though (if we watch the news) we know there are so many things that could go wrong. In 2001, my parents had been planning to go on one of their jaunts to the US and Jamaica. Their travel date was September 18, one week after the terrorist attacks on the US. At the time my father was 81, and he was never a good traveller. If you remember that was a period of turmoil and suspicion. In addition to the general sense of fear and unease, there were armed guards at every airport, not to mention the occasional bomb threat and flight delay. My advice to them was, don’t travel.
Instead, I elected to travel to visit them. Many friends thought I was crazy. Why would you travel at a time like this? Aren’t you scared? I had realized long before that to live your life in fear or expectation of something terrible happening at any moment is not to live your life. You may as well curl yourself in a ball under your comforter and never leave the (relative) safety of your home. And then an airplane could crash from the sky into it, so how safe is that? We must live our lives as an act of faith, living as if there is nothing to fear. Or we are not living.
In the same period of time, a worried friend told me that her sister, who lived in England, had suffered her second stroke. It bothered her that she may not see her before she died, since she feared that a third stroke would kill her. She certainly was not thinking of traveling to England, for fear of terrorist attacks. 9/11 had spooked everyone. I told her that for me flying was an act of faith. When you think about it, what sense does it make that a huge hunk of metal gets up in the sky and flies anyway? She happened to be a faithful Christian, and I reminded her that her faith should lead her to trust that all would be well. She listened to me, and said she would discuss it with her adult sons. Later she made her plans, after telling her sons what I had said. When she travelled, I held my breath for two weeks! There was a bomb scare in Paris the day she landed in London. All I could see was her three big sons coming after me if anything had happened!
But when we allow fear to control our movements and our decisions, we have stopped living. The latest attacks serve as harsh reminders of the fragility of life. But they have provoked an embarrassing and hateful knee jerk response on the part of loud mouthed attention seekers and fear-mongers. These despicable acts are a symptom of a disease that has been simmering for decades, perhaps centuries. And enacting stronger measures and creating fear and distrust will only increase the likelihood that the disease will spread and eventually kill more people. There have been several well written editorials that seek to teach us of the history of oppression, prejudice and worse that has been the experience of Muslims, and that is certainly not my area of expertise, but we have to question whether fighting bomb power with stronger bomb power can ever wipe out every vestige of terrorism. And how many ‘innocent lives’ go uncounted in the crossfire?
My father was a pacifist. He refused to fight in World War II because he could not, as a Christian, kill a fellow human being, no matter their nationality, politics or religion. I was brought up knowing that violence was never the answer. Many years ago I attended a series of seminars, and heard from the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. She told us that everyone has a story. Even a suicide bomber has a story. When we look only at the actions, and fail to investigate the underlying causes, we ignore centuries of pain and suffering. And we who think we are ‘innocent’ are just as guilty. How many Muslims do you know? Do you have any idea what it is like to try to practice your religion, live your life, have your name, in the USA today?
Is it possible that we could send out loving thoughts and compassion to those who believe that it is reasonable to go out and bomb cafes and concert halls? Can you find it in your heart to imagine that these perpetrators of heinous acts were once little kids, with hopes and dreams? Some woman’s child? It is easy to love those who do the right thing, who abide by society’s rules, who follow the same code of values and ethics that we do. But are we not all part of one large family?
This morning I am suggesting that we send an intentional desire for peace, compassion and love out into the world today. As Stevie Wonder wrote, ‘Hate’s going round, breaking many hearts,’ and the only way we can fix that is with love. ‘Love’s in need of love today’. My father’s favorite Bible passage concludes with the words: ‘But the greatest of these is love.’ Have a wonderful weekend Family. Live your life!