Carol Hallman: My heart is heavy and my soul is sick
As I have watched the coverage of these events and as I have followed the stories over the last several months of those fleeing from the brutality of ISIS in Syria, my heart is heavy and my soul is sick. As I watch the media stir up hostility, not just to the terrorists, but to all Muslims and especially the refugees I am saddened and maybe a bit angry also. The same people who replied to the #blacklivesmatter with #allivesmatter are now saying well, “maybe not all lives. Not Muslim lives, not refugee lives”. And no I am not naïve enough to believe that there are not terrorists among those trying to enter our country and others. But I am afraid of what the fear can and will do to us as God’s people who are trying to live as Christ would call us to live.
There’s a song that was written by Bruce Springsteen that keeps running through my head this week. The refrain goes:
“Fear is a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God-filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust”
It’s a song called “Devils and Dust” and speaks to how powerful and dangerous fear can be. It can turn righteousness into its opposite-into corruption and death. As I read comments online this week from people who wrote things like: “Round ’em (Muslims) all up and flush them down the toilet” or “toss them all (Muslims) into the middle of the ocean until they all drown,” it makes me sick. Fear can lead us to take actions we wouldn’t normally take if we were taking the time to think things through.
If we respond through hate then I believe we are no better than they are, if we respond tit for tat then they win, if we let fear keep us from being our better selves then they win. If we let fear fill us, if we let hatred have its sway then our very souls are at stake, and as Springsteen writes “they gather devils and dust”.
Yes we have to follow our procedures and do our best to ensure that terrorists don’t get through our borders; the process already takes 18-24 months and has multiple steps which are checked and re-rechecked and the individuals at the US Resettlement Program do their best to ensure that those who enter our country are the ones who are really in need, who are really oppressed and fearful of their lives if they were to return home. Maybe we need to look at that and make sure we are doing everything we can do but the reality is that there are most likely terrorists in our country already and not all of them are Muslim. Look at Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kazinsky, Jim David Adkisson, the KKK, the recent shootings at Mother Emmanuel Church and there are others. Not all terrorists are “other” nor are all terrorists Muslim, nor are all Muslims terrorists.
I hope and pray that we, as Christians, can bring light into the madness and hope into a world that so very much needs it right now. Let’s take a deep breath, breathing in God’s spirit and breathing it out into the world. Let us listen to God’s still speaking voice in this very scary time. Scripture speaks to our fears: “For I am the Lord, Your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.”
Oh, yes, we might remember another story, a story about a family forced to flee for their very lives as a king named Herod came searching. It’s a story found in Matthew’s gospel about Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus becoming refugees in the land of Egypt.
Carol Hallman is resident minister at First UCC, 207 W. Horah St.