I wanted to write a blog post after the terrorist attacks killed 130 people in Paris, but it’s been difficult for me to put words to type. In part, I felt the need to show respect for those who died and their families. And in part, I’ve been at a genuine loss for words.
What happened in Paris was a tragedy in every sense of the word. Innocent lives were destroyed because of misguided souls championing the cause of a love-starved ideology. But in my mind, what has happened since that fateful day has been almost as disturbing.
Long before the blood had been washed from the floors, sidewalks, and streets of Paris, the vitriol began to spew. In many ways, it reminded me of the mindset I found in the government housing project where I grew up.
“Anyone not like us is not really a person,” was the mentality that surrounded me in that small-minded environment. And because I didn’t fit the mold all that well, many of my neighborhood peers made the early years of my life a living hell.
The still-painful remembrance of those days is one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed living in a college community for almost 40 years. Granted, many of the people in a university town see life from an entirely different perspective than I do, but until recently, we’ve mostly given each other the freedom to be unique.
Yes, this middle-aged, white conservative Christian male is referring to people covered in tattoos and sporting neon green hair, people of the same gender who hold hands in a romantic way, and even women who wear burkas in adherence to their Muslim beliefs.
Whether I approve of their lifestyles and beliefs is not the issue. I consider all people worthy of honor and respect because they were created to be image-bearers of God—and because Jesus valued them enough to sacrifice His life on a horrible wooden cross for their sins.
What We Need
At this point, you may be thinking that you know what comes next—that I’m going to emphasize the need for us to respect others. Obviously, I believe respect is necessary, but that’s not what’s on my heart.
I think we all need to take time to prayerfully reflect, humbly allowing the King of the Universe the freedom to invade, shape, and guide our thoughts. The failure to do so only intensifies the chaos and conflict in our world.
This week, while perusing a thoughtful article by Max Fisher from Vox.com, I was struck by one particular statement. In exploring the common public perception that the media virtually ignored the Beirut terrorist bombing on 11/12/15, Fisher wrote the following:
At the most basic level, I suspect this may reflect a very human tendency with which we in the media are all too familiar: People start with a narrative they feel is true, and then look for evidence to support that narrative.
I have found this statement to be true on multiple fronts, and the mindset it creates is terribly frustrating. Making matters worse are the condescending attitudes and bitter words that so often follow.
The Syrian refugee crisis is a perfect case in point. The situation is so complex and multi-layered that it’s taken me several days of reading, contemplation, and prayer to formulate an opinion on whether or not the U.S. should accept refugees.
Too often, though, we form our opinions quickly and then scour the Internet in search of supporting evidence. In the process, every sentence opposing our obviously-accurate perception is picked apart—mostly in a mean-spirited way.
What Does God Want?
Rapid changes in technology are making our world smaller, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Only when we become small-minded does life get miserable.
I can only imagine how much better this world would be if we took some time to slow down and prayerfully reflect before crusading for our causes. “Lord, what do You think about this situation?” “How do You want me to feel about it?” “What do You want me to say and do?” “Does my attitude please and honor you?”
And, of course, it also helps to show some respect for those who don’t conform to our own small little worlds.
“The Scream” by Edvard Munch , via Wikimedia Commons