History tells us that “fear mongering” — whether justified or not — can elicit a societal response called Chicken Little syndrome, described as "inferring catastrophic conclusions possibly resulting in paralysis". It has also been defined as "a sense of despair or passivity which blocks the audience from actions”. So before we hole up in our dens numbing ourselves with endless hours of Netflix, emergency supplies and our favorite vices, let us consider the ashes that are falling on our heads.
Yes, we are living in turbulent times. But there have been far more turbulent times. And throughout history, the leaders who have emerged to influence culture for good were those who responded not out of fear, but out of hope, faith and love. And so in the midst of the turbulence, we must not be overwhelmed and paralyzed by hate and fear.
My good friend and pastor Rose is always reminding me of Dorothy Day’s words. “People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”
So yes. Though we are living in a time of great political and societal upheaval with the threat of an atomic bomb greater than it has been since the midcentury, there is simply too much work to do. Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand. Now is the time for courage. For love. For action. For peace. Now is the time to show up for one another, to get rid of that ugly hate and bitterness in our own hearts that erodes the very thing we are here for — love, meaning and connection.
I loved Anne Lamott’s recent post, “Sunday, eventually, I sat there with the first hope I've felt since Charlottesville, since the speech in Arizona, since Arpaio--that there is a path, a little light to see by, and most importantly, companionship. Us! You and me, motley old us, singing and writing and picking up litter, marching for peace, taking care of each other’s kids and elderly, ladling out food for the poor, making each other laugh; together…
"Don't let them get you to hate them." Well, I did let them, let them get me whipped up into a vicious kind of superiority, visions of revenge and perp-walks, where I'm channeling Sissy Spacek at the end of Carrie. And it was good. Yes, there is beauty and meaning in resistance to evil; and yes, there is a reasonable terror that we are closer to launching nuclear weapons than any time since 1962. There is the deepest grief and shell shock in memory. But for me, there is also plain old hate.
Hate is, on the one hand, comforting; and on the other, malignant.
And right there in church, I realized I didn't want it anymore. What I wanted was the love, the organized resistance, the guacamole. I wanted to continue to help fund the resistance, and to help people keep their spirits up, to serve the poor, pick up litter, listen to the very lonely.
And I wanted to get over the hate, to get on the same old path of the Berrigans, of Gandhi and Dr. King and Molly Ivins, peace and truth telling and never giving up."
So as the ashes continue to fall from the sky, reminding us that the world is ablaze with hate, let us remember who we are. Beloved children of God. All of us. Old and young, red and yellow, black and white, legal and illegal, conservative and liberal, Christian and Muslim, American and North Korean, straight, gay and transgender, rich and poor. We all weep and laugh, desire and hurt, hunger and thirst. And we all are created for love.
You see, the greatest resistance is repentance. We must turn away from our own comfort and fears, our apathy and our lack of compassion. We must expose our own judgments, privilege, biases and superiority. And we must let perfect love cast out fear. Fear of the "other" and fear of what we do not understand.
Love compels us to live boldly and wholeheartedly, to listen with empathy and vulnerability, offering our gifts generously and wholeheartedly to the world. This is why it is so important for faith communities to be living out this way of love together in an embodied way in the places we live, work, and play. For just like Jesus, we are called to be people of peace, love, reconciliation, grace, and forgiveness. For such a time as this.
So let the sky fall. For surely love brings heaven down to earth.
by Jessica Ketola