Tag Archives: fear

Inauguration Day 2021—A Day of Peace and Hope

Share

Four years ago today I was substitute teaching in a familiar classroom of fifth graders. After a contentious presidential election campaign, I thought the history lesson of watching the inauguration would be good for my students: they could watch as two very different sides would come together under the banner of unity to celebrate the peaceful transition of power in the world’s oldest democracy. Though personally disappointed in the result of the election, I nonetheless held out a modicum of hope that the new president, through his choices of advisors and cabinet officials, could lead the nation forward. I was wrong on both counts.

As the inauguration preliminaries played out on the big screen, most students quietly did their morning work, largely uninterested in the distant events in our nation’s capital  A few, whose parroted views had been overly enthusiastic (for ten-year-olds) throughout the previous fall, continued their boisterous cheering of their candidate’s victory. Others, more reserved in defeat, sat in silence.

Then I saw her: one normally-bubbly student sitting with head down, unable to focus on the page on her desk, tears streaming down her face. I knelt down beside her and asked what she was thinking.

“I’m afraid my family will be deported,” she replied.

I knew nothing of her background beyond that she was Hispanic. Were her parents illegal immigrants? Had she been born in the U.S. or in Mexico? In that moment, none of that mattered to me. All that mattered was that one of my students, a ten-year-old girl, was not celebrating democracy but fearing for her own security, her family’s security, her future. Far more devastating than an election loss was, for this girl, the prospect of losing her family and likely the only home she had ever known. She was afraid—legitimately, I think—not only because of the words she had heard on the nightly news from the man becoming president, but because those same words were coming from the lips of her fellow students.

As adults, we have learned to distinguish between the bombastic speeches we hear or read and what we can expect in reality. Friends, neighbors, and politicians alike will often speak far more boldly from behind the safe wall of a camera or social media, but never act on their bold speech or thinly-veiled threats. Fifth graders haven’t yet learned to separate that.

As I sought to comfort and give hope to my young student, I was caught in a poignant, agonizing moment that portended what would lay ahead in ways I would never have imagined … or, indeed, feared. Never in my wildest dreams did I consider that just two weeks before the next inauguration, our nation’s capitol building would come under attack not from a foreign enemy, but from within, from Americans fighting for their own distorted view of democracy. Never did I imagine that the president whose inauguration that little girl feared would be accused by long-time allies—members of his own party—of inciting an insurrection against his own capitol. And yet that is precisely what has taken place in the past two weeks.

And so on this Inauguration Day in 2021 I watched with a greater hope as our nation once again celebrated democracy’s greatest tradition: a peaceful transition of power. It was, again, a poignant moment, historic not simply as every inauguration has been historic, but because of the firsts: the first woman, first African-American, first Asian-American vice president (sworn in by the first Latina Supreme Court justice); the oldest first-term president (significant in a myriad of ways!); the first time in more than a century that the outgoing president has been absent from the inauguration. It was a poignant moment because of the pandemic that has gripped our nation and the world for the past ten months. There will be no comparison of crowd sizes this year, but the Capital Mall was resplendent with thousands of flags representing the nation, the states, the territories.

And it was poignant for me because of the hope I feel again: hope that our nation can begin to heal, hope that we can begin to put division and disunity behind us, hope that we can rejoin the nations of the world in working together for peace and prosperity for all. It won’t be easy. Millions still grieve their candidate’s loss; many still mistakenly—or willfully—believe that the election was fraudulent. Many of us—myself included—still have questions about the new administration and its commitment to values we hold. It will take all of us putting aside our differences in order to move forward in unity.

And yet today I am convinced that we can walk through the hard days ahead with hope. And hope is one thing that has been in desperately short supply these past four years.

In the Face of Evil

Share

Terror Headline Collage

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

Suicide bombings in Beirut kill 43, wound 239. Terrorist attacks in Paris kill 130, wound 368. Ten dead at an Oregon college, fourteen in San Bernardino. And those are just in the past two months.

Gun control. Prayer shaming. Closing borders. Fear.

These are the responses to the evil and violence that seem to be growing in intensity and frequency not only in our nation, but around the world. Politicians on one side call for gun control; on the other side, for border walls. The news media calls for solutions while reveling in the business; fear—like sex—sells.

Christians divide: some call for war, some for peace, all for prayer. Some want to reject Muslim refugees, some want to eradicate Islam altogether. Others want to win Muslims through love and service, a la the Good Samaritan in one of Jesus’ more well-known parables.

This morning I read these familiar words in a new light:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6, ESV)

It is a passage often quoted by Christians, offering hope and encouragement through trust in a good and faithful God. What struck me this morning, though, was the broader context in which these verses lie. Far from being a simple call to faith in the midst of the normal challenges of everyday life, the backdrop to Psalm 37 is a time of great strife, enmity, and threats from surrounding nations. The aging David’s reign over Israel has been marked by war and bloodshed; his victories on the battlefield have left behind jealous, hate-filled enemies. Even before ascending the throne, David’s life since youth was spent running from his own king, fearing for his own life.

This warrior-king’s call is to place faith over fear; to trust in God even in the face of threats and imminent danger. When David uses words like evil and wicked and wrongdoers, he is not talking primarily about swindlers or cheaters, but about bloodthirsty adversaries bent on killing. If he were writing today, perhaps he would use the word “terrorists.”

And how does David say we should live in the face of this great evil? Not in fear or hatred, which “tends only to evil” (v. 8), but in goodness and trust, in worship and faithfulness, in righteousness and justice.

We should live with great trust in the Lord who “laughs at the wicked, for He sees that his day his coming” (verse 13).

Today, will you live in fear or—worse—in hatred? Or will you trust in the God who sees…and who will one day act to end all violence and fear and hatred? …the God who laughs in the face of evil.