Want to start a war? Create an environment permeated with fear! Be afraid of what goes bump in the dark. Be afraid of losing control! Be Afraid of other people who are different – who belong to a different social class; who have a different color of skin; who might be mentally ill or have a different religion. Be afraid of Catholics, Methodists, Jews Muslims, Hindus, Agnostics, or Atheists, or whatever. Be afraid of those who are LBGT, or whatever variation that exists within the human family. Be afraid of those whose culture is different from yours.
Adolph Hitler decided that it was critically important to have a culture of pure Aryans. Based on the idea that The Survival of the Fittest was a correct vision, the Nazis began to deliberately eliminate all of the Jewish populations, but also all who were Special Needs Individuals, the mentally ill and others who were deemed not fit. In our own nation, we experimented with genetic control and the possible elimination of those deemed unfit. At one time, we approved of slavery for economic purposes and at the same time deemed those of African descent as only three fourths of a person with no rights. Following the war to free the slaves and to create an inclusive nation – we attempted to eliminate the entire Native American population, and restricted those who survived to reservations. We have been a culture that has approved of Racial Segregation from the very beginning and still do. We segregate neighborhoods, jobs, education, and social status. At one time, Japanese/Americans were sent to Concentration Camps because of fear. Another time, we attempted to keep all Catholics and Jews out; they were not welcome – they were agents of change. All Cultures, are to a great degree afraid of change – and do our very best to hang on to that which we are convinced is the only way to exist.
Over recent years, we have watched the cultural shifts in sexuality, with women actually acquiring the right to vote and to own property. We continue to struggle with the place of power in this world, with many presuming that women are secondary to men. Men are naturally gifted with the positions of authority and power over women. Even the Epistle to the Colossians advises women to obey their husbands; as it also advises slaves to obey their masters. Women, in the minds of many, are sexual toys to be used and discarded. Children, likewise, have been seen by many, as playthings for adults to use and then discard.
Fear is a powerful emotion. Recently, in Chicago, one figure of great power was knocked down a bit. and the amazing consequence was, that many individuals who had walked in fear, all of a sudden found the courage to speak out. This reaction is fairly common. When those who preside in positions of great power – physical, psychological, or cultural – are publicly exposed, then many who have been abused, gain the courage to stand up and accuse. They achieve some sense of freedom in finally speaking out and discovering a letting go of the chains of fear. We find so often that all organizations start out at one very positive level, but in time, those who have risen to the top, fear losing their position. They surround themselves with others who attach themselves in the hopes of reward or with the possibility of inheriting that position themselves. Corruption takes over with all institutions: City Governments, State Governments, Churches, Corporations, ad infinitum. Eventually, corruption is exposed and dealt with, but then starts all over. Jealousy, Greed, Power are part of the human dynamic – These stories are told throughout the Scriptures – and are seen by those who wrote those stories to be a constant temptation of the human personality, lived out in all cultures. Fear is that which holds them together.
As Saint Augustine said, Fear is the enemy of Love. Jesus, the itinerant Rabbi, walked the roads of Israel, calling his followers to another way; to the way of moving outside of oneself to connect to all; especially to the poorest and the weakest among us. This call requires awareness, reflection and action. It is more than just going along with the crowd. In reading the Gospels, we find Jesus calling on the disciples to let go of their fears; to trust in God who walks with us on our human journey. Letting go of our fears, enables us to give of ourselves for the sake of the other, and in this finding life. while holding on to our fears only brings ultimate death. We find life within the whole of creation. We learn that all of creation is connected and one. We can choose to become isolated and self absorbed, but in this choice, we choose death, not life. This is the story of the crucifixion and resurrection experience. This is our story.
Power structures, including the church, know how to create and take advantage of fears; like most institutions create the myth of dependence on the institution or cultural experience that others need. Dependence based on fear is quite common throughout the development of humanity. We struggle for freedom – to be free to love; to enjoy and rejoice in our common humanity together. Deep within ourselves we long to let go of our chains and to just be who we are called to be without judging others; without comparing and determining who is better and who is worse; to play god. Jesus calls us to walk on water – to join Him on the Cross – believing that creation itself, which we are part of is sacred and that God walks among us and within us. We are called to give up our dependency on the approval of others and our fear of life itself.
The disciples of Jesus were constantly afraid; who would be first? Would they be harmed by the Romans? Would they be ostracized and seen as unclean by those in power? They ran and hid and were afraid to see just what is was that Jesus was attempting to teach them. They did not get it, until they experienced the risen Jesus – who had no visible power to impose on others – he was free and asking his followers to be free. Help one another; feed one another, heal one another, as we are healed, fed, and helped. In interesting idea. Over the centuries, many people have figured this out and opened their eyes; reflected on what they were seeing; and then acted. They became responsible adults, responsible for the world around them. Ghandi, MLKing, Sister Therese, Martin Luther , Saint Francis, Saint Ignatius, on and on they move. Showing us the way. To let go of death and to choose life – requires letting go of our fears – whatever they might be – and to act responsibly for the common good.
The Journey of Creation – the Human Journey continues.