Being scared can actually help us see

A lot of my friends find the Enneagram useful for gaining personal understanding, discipleship, or team building. For them (and maybe you), it’s useful to know that I’m a 6w7 (six with a seven “wing”) – which among other things makes fear extremely relevant to my process which one can also describe as a need to feel secure. What makes me scared? Lots of things – the dark, flying, heights, public speaking, ticks, fire, snakes, the ocean, dead bodies, gaping wounds, selfie sticks…and lots of situations including but not limited to meeting people, forgetting someone’s name, that someone is mad at me, my wife’s driving, that someone doesn’t like me, conflict, and talking to people that I have known enough to say “hi” to but not much else for over a year.

Knowing what frightens me doesn’t make me stronger, it makes me feel weak – like I have less agency to change myself or a situation. Fear can show us space where God might want to work. I do have an instinct to avoid when I’m afraid, but the stronger instinct I have is to attack what I fear. I end up in some funny/awkward situations as I try to work it out. I wonder if all this being scared means I’m weak, or if it can help me see. I hope that I’m like Tris (Divergent books, films) who is told “fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.”

Especially since 911, fear is our national state of normal. Do you remember that for ten years we lived under “Code Orange” and other constant messages of scarcity, fear, and threat? I don’t think we ever got to live in blue or green – it was always elevated. When the people are afraid, the powerful can do all sorts of wildness with little resistance and help from the masses to quiet the dissent. The War on Terror, Abu Ghraib, lynchings, militarization of the police, Guantanamo Bay…how long will we endure?

The national consciousness got tested this week when 170 bikers were charged in connection to a shootout that killed nine humans. We were so not scared that I heard about the racialized coverage and police behavior before I heard about the incident.

What actually frightens the national consciousness? Remember 2010 when people were terrified that group of black teenagers could easily turn into a flash mob like a wildfire? Consider just a year ago when people I know told me emphatically about how the “knockout game” made them not want to live in the city anymore and vehemently fought with anyone (verbally or via keyboard, of course) who said that knockout was a racist myth made up by media or anything contrary that we should fear that the black kids we see are probably about to will punch us in the face for fun.

The national consciousness does not fear that we might actually lose our soul for not helping Nepal that much (in relation to say…military spending post 911) while we continue the War of Terror. I believe most people aren’t afraid of “real life Sons of Anarchy” because their bloodbath didn’t threaten white supremacy or security of white privilege. Ferguson did. Baltimore did. The movement of people, mostly citizens, pointing out a character flaw with the fabric of American society does.

Can a lack of healthy also point us towards where God might want to work? If we can listen to the fear, and admit what scares us – I think we’ll learn a lot about our heart, where we’re really at, and have some conscious space for the Holy Spirit to do some work on us – whether it’s comforting us, healing us, or empowering – we are called into embodying alternatives. Understanding who benefits from unhealthy levels of fear in the national consciousness not only points out where we are sick, but where Jesus might be showing up to either calm the storm or flip tables.

Working out solutions in this dissonance between desensitization and being swept up in lucrative anti-black media campaigns can be really maturing. I think our anger can get misplaced if we’re not careful. There are people out there who I think want to embody a different reality with the Holy Spirit – one that can see past the veneer of a corrupt society with enough possibilities left can be One with God and each other. Our invitation must go deeper than consciousness, awareness, or enlightenment – Christ has opened eternity. I want to be transformed together into a community that can speak and act in our moment in time with a compelling demonstration that has an answer for “what next?” by being. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to fill our sails so we can do more than avoid fear – we can gather the afraid ones and the angered ones to show the fearmongers Christ’s love that does a lot more than cast out fear. We are about the celebrate Pentecost on Sunday – let’s see if we can allow it to be really special – come be with us at 2007 Frankford 5PM or 7PMThe Holy Spirit forms us into a community that can get deeper and fuller than media problems, social constructions, worries, wounds, and conflict because we Jesus is with us and Jesus is leading us. This reality is better than the one we can make by voting and it needs to touch those who don’t know about it yet.

Soft-hearted dialogue during Ferguson & KXL

Ferguson-Protesters-SignsThe Michael Brown story and grand jury convening on whether to charge Officer Darren Wilson could come to a head tomorrow. For many people, this is just another day and another story that will dominate headlines for a few days. For others – especially African Americans – this case means much more. Is Ferguson is a microcosm of race relations in the US? Could it be white supremacy that’s actually on trial? Could this case mean that it is OK to shoot black men as long as you have some sort of reason?

This case gets at some important questions for those with faith in Jesus. Where is Christ in the situation? How do those who hunger and thirst for righteousness & justice speak and stand? Are we in danger of getting swept up by a media machine that causes unhelpful distrust for authorities and takes us into an ignorant and emotional mob mentality?

kkk leaderI wonder why both riot cops and the National Guard were deployed to Ferguson during protests. I wonder why the KKK threatens protesters (they call them terrorists in their “warning”). I wonder why Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency. There is something bigger than just this case going on right now. The trend of questionable police killings of young people of color continues – here are some snippets about 13 in the month after Michael Brown.

As a Christian I don’t expect the criminal justice system, courts, or laws to bring justice. True justice comes through the Kingdom of God. In this moment of such great outcry by our black sisters and brothers, how can we not listen? I think God hears them and cares. I think the more of us that care and speak up and act out, the more incremental steps we can make toward the protection of the next generation.

While this grand jury decision is a watershed moment – don’t sleep on Obama’s immigration speech KXL nativestonight (could grant legal status to 5 million undocumented folks) or the significant defeat/postponement of the Keystone XL pipeline. The majority of people affected by these decisions are poor as well as Latino or Native, so many white Americans see the economic ramifications and possibilities before family or land issues. Let’s change our hearts.

After a surprisingly spirited discussion on my Facebook wall this week that included Christian Anarchists, Black Women, a Catholic Policeman, atheists, conservative Anabaptists, and others, I’m inspired but a little discouraged. I’m inspired because I think there is work to be done and I have relationships with people beyond the “choir” that I might prefer to “preach” to over social media. I’m discouraged because I think for every friend I argue with, there are at least ten who agree with them but don’t engage directly.

Having dialogue when the fabric of society comes under question (is the US founded on Christian values or on white supremacy?) is important to have, especially with people who don’t agree with you. When we get stuck not listening or merely defending our fixed position on an issue, I think we all lose. Sometimes I’m not sure I have enough out-of-the-box stuff to get people listening to those suffering and marginalized. Some white folks listen because it’s en vogue or duty. If Jesus doesn’t touch us and change our hearts, will enough people will make the intellectual leap in time enough to stop atrocities that are being waged? When I’m praying for these situations, I’m praying for Jesus to touch hearts – including my own – to make us soft enough to feel the pain and move with the Spirit to keep restoring what’s broken.