Hopes and Dreams

I have friends on both sides of the political divide who are scared. Tough, Army veterans who were shot down behind Vietnamese enemy lines who are scared. Seniors, healthcare workers, business owners, and venture capitalists who are realistically concerned about the potential for violence. American Jews fear a repeat of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) when, in 1938, the Nazis began the systematic destruction of the German Jewish people.[1] In the original Nazi violence, Protestants and Roman Catholics stood by, watching passively, while their Jewish neighbors and friends were rounded up and their businesses and synagogues destroyed.

The palpable fear today makes me wonder just what it takes to take a collection of otherwise, well-intentioned, thoughtful people and turn them to violence towards one another. America had a Civil War. What will we need to do to prevent a recurrence?

It starts with black and white thinking, with “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Add a large dose of fear and distrust of everything from government to schools to churches and people will feel isolated and afraid. Racial minorities have been oppressed since day one and much of the oppression continues today. For the most part, white people do not understand the oppression of minorities and are bewildered or worse. The middle class has been steadily disenfranchised since the 1970s. Safety nets are unraveling. Mass media has become an internet jungle full of disinformation. Different groups claim to be victimized, but no one will stop to understand the claims of anyone else. Church leaders cannot speak out on behalf of the oppressed because they will be accused of being “political” by somebody out there.

This escalating situation has literally been gut-churning for me. And I have felt powerless. I listen to people. I pray with them. Sometimes there are tears. I hear the fears, the concerns, the assertion that no matter what, there may be violence. Things will never be the same. The pandemic keeps us apart when we need to come together the most.

Perhaps that is a clue to hope. Can we try to get together as much as we can? Can we try to listen and reach out and be present even if we may not agree with what is being said? Can our presence with others signal that we love and respect them? Can we pray for things that are common concerns – that the pandemic will pass soon and that weather disasters will not be too severe? Can we support our institutions with thank you notes to teachers, judges, and healthcare workers? Can we reassure each other that we will support each other?

I hope that we can be the light that overcomes darkness, the perfect love that casts out fear, the steady friend in the face of big disagreements. I hope that we can be like Jesus who not only welcomed the oppressed and disenfranchised, but who could socialize with the wealthy and political leaders giving them an opportunity to choose love over fear. I hope that we can live out what we promise in our baptismal creed – to respect the freedom and dignity of every human being.


[1] https://time.com/5449578/kristallnacht-lessons-bystanders/

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