Last night, I made a mistake. I was having trouble sleeping and I have a bad habit of having my phone beside the bed. I am getting old enough (ugh) that I can't always focus enough to read a book if I wake up in the night but it's easy to scroll through Facebook posts. Not only did I make the mistake of looking at Facebook, I made the mistake of reading comments. When will I ever learn?
The post was on Shane Claiborne's feed and he had posted a lament for the loss of the 12 year old shot by police in, I believe it was, Cleveland. As I read, I was stunned to see that a third of the posts were defending the actions of the police officer. I quickly put the phone down and tried to get back to sleep but it was too late, my brain was engaged.
At first, I just felt helpless rage, you know, the kind you feel when you are watching a movie and the hero is being treated SO UNFAIRLY and you know that you can do absolutely nothing about it. I composed angry retorts to the posters in my brain, knowing that were I to write anything, I would probably just get slammed for being a bleeding heart liberal communist constitution hater Canadian who has no understanding of how the world works. Then, all of a sudden, as sometimes happens so late at night, I heard it - fear.
In the Bible, "Fear Not" or "Do Not Be Afraid" is said over and over and over again. As I get older, I come to appreciate more and more that God has a depth of understanding of the human character that is deeper than that of any human being and that when God tells us not to do something, it truly is for our own good, not just because He likes to impose rules. Fear is a natural human emotion and it can be very useful at times to prevent us from putting ourselves in peril. On the other hand, it also leads us to stupid decisions, panic and reverting to the reptilian parts of the brain that control our fight or flight responses. As a teacher, I have heard again and again that we can't teach when we are dealing with children who are in that fear mode because the parts of their brains that are capable of higher level thought shut down and everything happens based on instinct. As I pondered the situation in the U.S., it hit me that so much of this insanity is based on fear:
-fear of anyone different than we are
-fear that if we don't have powerful weapons, we will be victims
-fear that if we don't prove our strength, we will be seen as weak and tormented
-fear of "bad neighbourhoods"
-police fear of the potential for violence and the risk in their jobs (which is somewhat warranted)
-fear by visible minorities that they will be victimized by the police officers who should be there to protect them
-fear of the loss of stuff
-fear that it is impossible to break the cycle of poverty and resorting of various life choices that lead to crime
-fear that if we help to support those living in poverty that we will somehow be "taken" or "used" by those who really don't need
-fear that if we impose restrictions on weapons that we will be overtaken by government (or some other enemy - I'm Canadian so I truly don't get this one)
-fear that if we venture out of our own locked enclaves that we will be hurt or killed or have our stuff taken
Fear. It's so destructive. We are going to feel fear, that's part of being human, but if we allow our entire lives and societies to be ruled by fear, we will continue to sink deeper and deeper into violence and despair. Jesus did not allow fear of anything to stop him from reaching out, from touch the leper, from confronting wrong, from speaking with honesty and He truly had a reason to fear. We can't allow our fear to turn us into animals, striking first to prevent being hurt ourselves and barricading ourselves from anyone different. Sadly, many of those who most aggressively battle against peace and compassion are those who claim to NOT be afraid but whose fear is the most corrosive of all.
It's time to admit to our fear, to face it and to accept that it can't be allowed to make our decisions for us. We owe that to the dead children whose lives were taken entirely because of the evils of fear.