Prayers For Paris, and Prayers For Our Hearts

Oh Paris...

Oh Paris…

Like many of you, I have had tears in my eyes all night. I have been watching the stories come in about these murders in Paris, and just like everyone else, my heart is breaking. It breaks for the families of all those people who lost their lives today. It breaks for all the ones who are injured and hurt and fighting for their lives. It breaks for the people around the world who have grown accustomed to being blamed for acts of terrorism because a perversion of their faith continues to lead a demented few to carry out horrible acts of violence. And it breaks for all the people around the world who are allowing this evil to seep into their soul and make them a little more filled with fear than they were the day before.

Already people are beginning to blame Syrian refugees and immigrants for what happened today… And this sort of thing is tragically predictable. The tendency is to let something like this push people further into fear and hatred of “The Other.” Immediately people begin pointing fingers. And asking the question “Who is to BLAME for this?” But I don’t believe that the blame lies nearly as much in the “Who” as it does in the “What.” WHAT is to blame for this? And the answer is fear. And hatred. The blame is not on a culture or a heritage or a religion… The blame is on an ideology of separation. One that constantly pits Us versus Them. It is a disease, and if we’re not careful, we can catch that disease through the pain of watching all this suffering at the hands of people committed to spreading their toxic ideology of separation.

Je suis paris. Je suis l'humanité.

Je suis Paris. Je suis l’humanité.

Because when we line up with fear and hatred for The Other, we line up along side of the very sorts of people who committed these terrible crimes. There are two ways this can go: We can let it fuel our suspicion and fear and hatred of The Other, or we can let this solidify our solidarity against the kind of suspicion and fear and hatred that leads to tragedies like this happening. When we react with the same fear and hatred that caused this violence, we embrace their ideology. We fight on the same side as the ones killing people in theaters. Because there is a fight… But this is not a fight against Islam. This fight is against the very idea that some members of humanity don’t deserve to live. This is a fight against hatred. It is a fight against darkness. And the only way to fight hatred is with love. The only way to fight darkness is with light.

The fight is not against Islam.

The fight is not against Islam.

And all over social media, people are writing “Pray For Paris” (and “Pray For Japan” because of an earthquake that got overshadowed by the tragedy in Paris today). And those prayers are fine and good. People are asking God to be “with” the many people who are hurting all over the world in a special way today. We all have differing understandings of what happens when we pray… I happen to be a person who believes that God is always with us. He celebrates with us in the good times, and he grieves with us on days like today. So it always hits my ears a little weirdly when people ask God to “be with” people… As if he’s ever not.

But if you’re the praying type, here are some other things to pray for: Pray that these acts of separation and violence do not lead us to embrace an ideology of separation and violence. Pray for the millions and millions of peaceful Muslims all over the world, who–every time these maniacs do something like this–have to deal with a whole new round of ignorance and prejudice. Pray for the Christians whose fear and hatred could easily lead them into being the same sort of maniac. Pray for your own heart–That it might be even more like the heart of God… One that loves its enemies. Pray that we all understand the God IS with us… And when it feels like he is nowhere to be found, God is with us when we are there for each other.

Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters...

Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters… “God is with us when we are there for each other.”

So in this moment of sadness and cynicism and terror and tears, let us not fan the flames of fear. Let us not start pointing fingers before the investigation is completed. Let us not allow this tragedy to separate us even more into “Us versus Them.” Into tribes. But let us proclaim–with our words and our lives–that even in this dark time, love is stronger than hate. And the darkness is no match for the light… Even when things seem so very dark.

Once again, I want to thank my Patrons. You should have some special gifts coming your way shortly. Thanks to Dr. Betty Malkus for believing in what I do enough to help support this blog. Thanks to everyone who helps out… So sad today.

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21 Responses to Prayers For Paris, and Prayers For Our Hearts

  1. theboeskool says:

    Just a heads up: I usually let just about everything go here in the comments section, but not on this one. If you use this area to spout off about how bad Islam is, I’m going to delete it.

    Sorry. My blog, my rules.

  2. kitchenmudge says:

    How many comments so far saying open carry would have stopped it? Gotta love those Murricans.

  3. Sue Richers says:

    You, as the saying goes, “nailed it in one”. Love will always conquer hate. There is a faction on this planet that promotes hate for their own ends. We must not let them win! Thank you for your encouraging comments.

  4. Greg Miner says:

    Food for thought for anyone open minded enough to listen. If we allow hatred to fill our hearts, then we’ve already allowed evil (ISIS in this case) to win.

  5. This is so true. You fight fire with water, hatred with love. Attacks like that don’t help anyone’s cause, it only brings more pain, to every side. Assigning blame to anyone but the guilty party also does nothing to heal the pain, and only spreads it. Extremism is a problem nearly all religious or ideological groups have to deal with at some time or another, to differing extents. This case is a truly heartbreaking one. The only way to heal is to come together, in love and in understanding. Understanding that many atrocities have been done in the name of God, or in the name of a people, but the perpetrators in no way spoke for God, or for their people. We on all sides must speak out against actions of evil, and ourselves act with love. So much evil in the name of God, but God is love.

  6. Wat is this world coming to .. Smh r.i.p to all the people lost there lives

  7. When we hear about American drones accidentally killing civilians at a Pakistani wedding or our bombs accidentally hitting a hospital in Syria, we don’t equate that as being the same as terrorist attacks on civilians in the West. But perhaps there is no real difference to the mourning families of the victims. Perhaps both types of acts perpetuate the madness.

    • jhaney says:

      There is a big difference. There is always a difference between an accident and an intentional act. There is evil and it is okay to name it what it is and to fight against it the best you can, even if you make mistakes. It is far worse to watch evil happen and do nothing to stop it.

      • mihipte says:

        I agree, but I would add that evil can be motivated by amoral things; the obvious example is wealth. There’s plenty of evil to be found behind those accidents. On the other hand, I don’t think these incidents are ethically related to each other, except that they should be consistently understood.

      • jhaney says:

        Yes, I think that religion is most likely the smaller motivator to ISIS. Probably power and money are the stronger attractions. For the suicide bombers, hate and power are probably intrinsic motivations.

        I agree that if we look very far into any human action or decision or thought we will quickly find a mess of mixed motives and always any good action is tainted. But we can’t give up trying to do good because we can’t do perfect good. And we can’t say that because nothing we do is perfectly good we should then do nothing. And we really can’t say that because we aren’t perfect we are just like evil murderers.
        So, to apply this opinion to the topic, I would say, ISIS is an evil that needs to be fought, even if in fighting ISIS we make mistakes and innocent people die. Because to do nothing is to wait for even more innocent people to die. And it seems pretty clear to me that only force will stop them.

      • mihipte says:

        I have mixed feelings about that. I’m fine with force being used, but I don’t think the American military should be involved. Our historical involvement in the region shows a pattern of destructive behavior (e.g., toppling Iran). That behavior has earned us a reputation which will hamper any truly altruistic efforts. Our geographic distance means the violence isn’t yet an existential threat to us, so we have less incentive to be responsible. (If this were happening in Mexico, I’d probably go the other way.)

        I would prefer that the problem be solved by people with more skin in the game. Some such people are rather unfavorable for the task (Turkey, with their attitude toward the Kurds; Iran, with their hostile relations), but that is how humans usually work out lasting solutions to geopolitical problems. Until one of them becomes the primary problem, the nations of the region should be left to deal with ISIS by themselves. Most problems don’t get bad enough to require manpower from across an ocean.

      • jhaney says:

        That’s the same argument used before Pearl Harbor.

      • mihipte says:

        Treating every nation-level problem as a Pearl Harbor waiting to happen strikes me as incredibly irresponsible and counterproductive. It also seems to be how we ended up having our hands in everyone’s pots, in turn stirring up the current problems.

        Anyhow, I appreciate the conversation. Ideas are rather worthless without others’ perspectives.

  8. Sara Hembel-Sytsma says:

    Very well said!!

  9. mjt says:

    As a point of comparison, the Syrian Civil War so far has claimed the lives of as many as 350,000 people in the four and a half years since it began. That works out to two Paris attacks a DAY. Every day. Not hard to see why the refugees would do almost anything to escape that kind of daily nightmare. Perspective is everything.

  10. erikalessard says:

    (Good point mjt.) I would like to simply say that I consider myself a Christian. I am not full of fear and hatred. I do not think God is sending all the “non-Christians” to hell.

  11. Sometimes I think that darkness WILL win and hatred WILL overcome and death WILL win out. The evidence is so shaky that light and love and life will conquer. It ebbs and flows.

    Still.

    It is the way to live, is it not? We must live in the confidence that life is worth living, that children are worth having and tending, that plans are worth doing, that the future is worth expecting. If indeed light and love and life are the end result, we will have been preparing for it, all along.

    And if we are defeated, we will have made a corner of this universe a pleasant place to live, and done our duty to our family and friends, our community, and ourselves.

  12. Pamela says:

    Hi Chris,
    Really really enjoyed this article of yours! Resonates very much with my husband and my heart, in every way! 🙂
    I don’t know if this is a possibility, but we happen to be in the Nashville area for a few days or so. Currently we run a campground in upstate New York six months out of the year but feel drawn to establish our roots somewhere on a more long-term basis with others who share the same heart for community, and we very much respect the ideas behind Ubuntu and feel it is one of the closest things to the way we were meant to live. We are traveling in a mini motorhome, so have all that we need in it to stay wherever. If there’s any chance to connect with you for coffee, my cell number is 585–330–5985 or my husband’s number is 508-933-7945. We text as well. 🙂
    Sincerely
    Vinny and Pamela

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