Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Throughout all this sadness for Paris and Beirut and all the downright meanness toward refugees, the lyric to an old anti-war song keeps running through my head:
Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowing come the Judgment Day.
On the bloody morning after, one tin soldier rides away.
Late 60's protest crap? Perhaps, if that's the way you want to look at it. But, boy, with every hateful news story and social media post, I find myself singing that chorus. Go ahead and hate your neighbor . . . Do it in the name of Heaven.
The One Tin Soldier story tells of mountain people who have a treasure that the valley people want. The valley-folk demand it of the mountain-folk, and the mountain-folk say they will gladly share their treasure. Not good enough for the valley-peeps, so they storm the mountain and kill all the mountain-peeps for the treasure. They roll the stone over, expecting some kind of monetary treasure, but instead find Peace on Earth written on the stone. So now all the peaceful, generous mountain-folk are dead and the mean, religious killing machines are left feeling bad (we hope). And one tin soldier rides away.
Now, lots of folks will argue that we're the mountain folks and Middle Eastern terrorists are the valley folks. Fine. I'd love for that to be the case, but I'm seeing no treasure of Peace on Earth or the generosity to share it from us mountain folks. I'm not really seeing very many mountain people at all in the current situation. And let's face it, in the end all the peaceful mountain folks are slaughtered, so what's the point of siding with that bunch of losers?
I can't speak for all religious people whatever their faith or denomination, but as a follower of the teachings of Jesus, I'm completely dumbfounded by the "Christian" response to Syrian refugees. "What Would Jesus Do" friends who rail against sexual orientation (of which Jesus said not one word) are turning their backs on all of the many Biblical teachings, including those of Jesus, about welcoming the refugee or stranger, serving the "least of these," supporting the persecuted, and on and on. Jesus was a Middle Eastern refugee himself, considered a huge danger to the state even as a baby. Yeah, it's easy to follow these teachings when they line up with your personal or political beliefs, ain't it? But it gets hard when those words clash with what you really want to do.
Oh, and Jesus never said one word about putting "personal safety" over "doing the right thing." In fact, he constantly put himself and his followers in danger. Lots of 'em died doing the right thing. Shoot, he died doing the right thing. Be not afraid. Love your God. Love your neighbor (including crazy dangerous people). Be not afraid. That's what Jesus taught. You either get it or you don't, I don't care how many times you read the Bible or go to church.
So go ahead and hate your neighbor, but I hope and pray that I am one of the mountain people, whatever the dangers or outcomes. Be not afraid.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
It's not a competition.
When something horrible happens to someone close to you, it's natural for your focus, your sense of duty, your prayers, to shift to that person. Whatever horrible things are happening to people you don't know, your tears and support are channeled to the family member or friend in times of trouble. For good or for ill, those of us who are products of Western Civilization - whatever our race, religion, or nationality - feel a deep connection with Paris (or London or New York or Rome), and when something awful happens in one of our sister cities, it affects us as family.
Maybe we know someone or someone's kid who lives in Paris. Maybe we studied there. Maybe we have great memories of a vacation or a love for French art and literature. There are lots of reasons why we are making a big deal out of it on social media and in the press. It hits close to home in lots of tangible and intangible ways, which is why, I assume, that western media is paying so much attention to Paris and not Beirut. (By the way, I do wonder how the media in the Middle East are covering Beirut vs. Paris.)
It's not a competition.
The thing is, it doesn't have to be an either/or; it can be a both/and. One is not worse - or a more noble tragedy - than the other. We can have all of it on our radar. But family is family. Long, strong relationships rise to the top at times like this. No one should be trying to make anyone feel bad for focusing on Paris and not all the other places of conflict in the world. Sometimes we humans can only handle so much at one time. Grieve however and for whomever you want, and leave others to do the same.
The world is a hurting place. Always has been. And grief is not a competition.