Magazine article Tikkun

Be Not Afraid

Magazine article Tikkun

Be Not Afraid

Article excerpt

I'm a father, so I try not to be away from home for too many days. But when I am away, I have frequent conversations with my two boys, Luke and Jack. Luke is four, but he has the phone thing down. I want to tell you about one of those phone conversations.

I was in Florida, and Luke and I had already talked twice that day. So when I got to the hotel room and heard a little voice on my hotel voicemail I smiled. Two hours had passed-lots of things had happened. I had to be caught up.

I listened and heard this little voice go through all that had happened since we last talked. He said goodbye, but he didn't hang up, and what he said next stopped me dead in my tracks. he said, "Daddy, don't be afraid."

I heard my wife, Joy, take in her breath in the background. A little four-year-old child says, "Daddy, don't be afraid."

You might know that in the Christian tradition, Jesus instructed his disciples that way, using that phrase more than any other single instruction. Over and over again, Jesus said, "Be not afraid."

Even as I speak we are on Orange Alert, high danger of threat from terrorism, just as we were throughout the war in Iraq, a war that was argued for and justified mainly on the basis of fear. A monk named Thomas Merton said many years ago, "The root of war is fear."

Since September 11, our nation has been terrified. Even now, in victory, we are still terrified.

September 11 shattered the American sense of invulnerability. That was the invitation of September 11 : accept the feeling of vulnerability that most of the world's people already live with. Join the rest of us.

Most Americans don't want to join the kids of color in my urban neighborhood who already are familiar with the kind of random, senseless violence that takes loved ones away. They want something no one can give us. They want someone to erase our vulnerability. If the government says war will make it go away, they say, fine. If the government says suspending civil liberties will do that, they say, fine. If the government claims spending more and more of our tax dollars on the military and homeland security at the expense of everything else will make us once again feel invulnerable, they say, fine.

But we can't erase our vulnerability. Our vulnerability, in fact, is the source of some of our greatest creativity and best impulses. Being prudent and vigilant in the face of danger is good. But when a government offers to take away our vulnerability, I would suggest to you, theologically, that it borders on idolatry.

I am convinced that mere political action to counter policies based on fear will not be enough. We must go deeper, to the roots of our fear. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the resistance to fear. For people of faith, that means trusting in the One we call God. For those who are not persons of faith, it means believing at some deep level that what you know, what you believe, and who you are is finally more trustworthy than that which others say you must be afraid of. We need nothing less than the healing of a nation, beginning with our fears; that healing will be essential to make peace-making possible.

Those who now lead this nation, however, believe that peace comes through unquestioned military superiority. Presidential words from battleships point the way. A new Pax Americana is being offered quite boldly. The word "empire" is no longer a dirty word-it is being used in a positive sense. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard has said, "There is nothing wrong with dominance, as long as it is in favor of the right values. …

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