Theology Thursday – When fear is no longer a reaction, but a willful action

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A picture taken by Magnus Wennman from a collection called “Where The Children Sleep”, which showcases the life of refugee kids after their flight from their homeland, Syria.

Like most people, I was shocked, angered, disheartened, and incredibly saddened by the recent horrific violent scenes coming out from Paris. I was at a book launch when my Twitter feed started to fill with the news that there were shootings and explosions in multiple locations. I saw the number of fatalities rise, almost every hour, it seems. The number of injured people also changed each time I checked.

Beirut also suffered severe bombings that took the lives of many people. I read the story of an unexpected hero, a father who saw the second bomber and rushed him, causing the bomber to detonate early, saving multiple lives and yet losing his own in the process.

Japan also suffered an earthquake and there were potential tsunami alerts. All of this happened within the space of 48 hours. It’s a bit too much to take it all in.

A video recently came out of a father having an important discussion about the event with his young son. The reporter asked him if he knew what happened. He replied, “Yes, because they’re really really mean … Bad guys are not very nice.” He was so worried that he may have to change houses. His father reassured him that they were not leaving because France is their home. “They have guns, they can shoot us because they’re really mean, Daddy,” the young boy responded back. “It’s ok. They may have guns, but we have flowers,” his dad calmly reassured him.

Admittedly, that was the part of the video where a tear or two may have escaped my eyes. I’m thankful that in the face of death, this father chose to focus on life. I’m glad that a generation of children can potentially grow up knowing that violence may not necessarily be the best response. I want a generation of children to know that flowers and candles can protect us.

However, I only have to go on Facebook to know that my dream is nothing but a dream. Many in my news feed want nothing but for there to be total destruction, even if it means innocent civilians are left dead, or what I think is even worse… alive and orphaned. The reaction against Syrian refugees has also been rather infuriating for me. These people want to escape the same terror that Paris and Beirut experienced and yet they are being blamed for the very thing they are trying to escape. As a Christian, it seriously boggles my mind when I hear anti-refugee sentiments from other professing Christians, especially since the main figure of Christianity was forced to flee from a maniacal terrorist and received refuge in another city. With Christmas fast approaching, the irony is rather striking.

In the past, I have tried very hard to write fairly neutral blog posts. However, I refuse to remain neutral in the face of injustice. When there are prominent Christians who are lumping the term “Syrian refugee” with the word “terrorist,” I am going to go out of my way to make sure people know that they do not speak for me. When there are more self-professing Christians who are bothered by Starbucks red cups and their lack of Christmas designs thus making them anti-Christ figures yet find nothing wrong with elected officials saying that they refuse to accept any refugee, even if it was a 3 year old orphan, there is something incredibly wrong about this. There is a vast difference with someone saying that proper procedures must be put in place to weed out terrorists among those claiming to be refugees versus making sweeping generalizations that all refugees are terrorists. Lest people forget, Timothy McVeigh was white. Last time I checked, there were no sweeping legislations made against white people as a result of the Oklahoma bombing. Dylan Roof went into a church and brutally killed 9 people and yet there was no general prevailing sentiment against the American people that all American males were cold blooded killers. It would be a lie to think that racism has not reared its ugly head throughout this situation.

Recent reports state that the Syrian passport found on one of the bombers was a fake. However, this information will probably have no effect on those who think that all the bombers were from Syria. This goes to show that this is not an issue of the head, but an issue of the heart.

I can only pray that our hearts will be full of compassion towards those who are in need. History reminds us that one day, we might need it too.

 

The importance of mystery

More and more, I’m convinced of the need to see the world afresh and anew. We are a society that has accumulated millions and billions of data about everything. And somehow, this strange phenomenon has not caused us to wonder about the world but instead has done the exact opposite. We now think that we know this world we live in. Back in the good old days, people didn’t know about the sun, so they wanted to know more about it. They didn’t know about the stars, so they wanted to learn more about it. They didn’t know about this, that, and the other… and in their curiousity, tried to understand the very thing that got them intrigued. I sometimes think we have lost this vivacious curiousity, this desire to ask “why” and “how” when it comes to the things around us or the ideas that are all around us. I mean, why bother, isn’t that what Google and Wikipedia are for?

But it is this craving to ask the questions that others aren’t asking that makes us humble in our understanding. It is in the very not-knowing that we can know things. It’s hard not to come at a situation with pre-conceived notions of how it works, or what it is. And sometimes, it is this very arrogance of know-it-all attitude that closes us to further experiencing this world that God has given us.

There’s an anime show I watched called “Full Metal Alchemist.” The show was about two brothers who lost their mom and wanted to bring her back through alchemy. Of course, this was also forbidden. According to alchemy, every action has a reaction. To create matter, you must first have the ingredients needed to create the very thing you want. The theory is, if all the raw materials are there, they can then resurrect her. They try to do it and of course it fails. The question that hounds them is why? Why is it that even though they had ALL the raw ingredients to make up a person, they could not create a person? Shouldn’t this cause us to wonder at how “fearfully and wonderfully made” we all are?

It is only when we look at the world with wonder that we can experience its beauty. Nature yields its secrets only to those who actually seek to know its secrets. In religious settings, it is the mystic who, in his or her desire to know God, finds God. Doesn’t the Bible itself affirm this when it says “seek and you shall find”? My challenge to you is to go out of the door tomorrow and notice the birds in the air, the trees, the little squirrel scurrying away, the flowers, the grass, the bus, the cars, the elevator, the door, the air… and realize how wonderful all of it really is.

and scene…