Thursday, March 24, 2016

Responding to terror: Belgium, Ankara, Nigeria...

This March alone, there have been attacks in eight countries. Brussels is the one currently getting major media attention.

I don't like hatred. It erodes my sense of well being. It robs me of joy. It ridicules peace.

If left unattended, hatred develops enemies. It intentionally misinforms until fellow humans are mutated into monsters. It stigmatizes others and portrays stereotypes as truth.

A community governed by hatred will be a place where no one feels safe. It will be a place where laughter is silenced. I don't want to live in such a place. Yet such places are silently being developed.

Subtle reactions to events like the bombings in Brussels build and accumulate. Safety feels threatened and hatred begins to nest. Anger and revenge is directed at strangers. Soon fear is used as political platforms; hatred is nurtured. Discrimination is justified as protection; hatred is given flight.

I yearn for a world where one's own life and the lives of others are treasured. I long for communities governed by love and empathy, where safety is maintained by a commitment of well being for all.

To ensure such communities, each person must work to cut off that which gives birth to hatred. Violence of any sort must be discouraged, whether that is in schoolyard play or sports arena competition. Stereotypes must be questioned by truth. Friendships must be developed with strangers. And respect for one another must accompany disagreement.

Such communities are possible. Such communities are needed in a world giving into the forces of hate.

May we all determine to feed tolerance and understanding. May we be committed to developing new friendships and destroying old feuds and misunderstandings.

This is the place we all want to live. This is the place we should all strive to create.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

New Leadership

Whenever a young person initiates conversation I take note.

It is noteworthy for two reasons. First, connecting with young adults interested in church is not all that common. Second, finding young adults not intimated by position or status is significant.

In these situations, I always feel I am in conversation with either an existing leader or a potential leader. I want to understand as best as I can what is being articulated, how it is being articulated, and what it tells me about how young leaders think.

One of those experiences happened recently. As I left an event looking at the impact of human activity on our environment, a young voice behind me asked, "Were you at Mennonite World Conference this summer?" I swung around and faced a smiling young adult. "Yes," I said. "You must've been there too."

We chatted about the experience. We shared stories. We agreed the thrill of meeting Mennonite/Anabaptists from around the globe was inspiring. "I was baptized earlier in the spring, so thought I should go to World Conference," explained the young adult.

It was an interesting alignment – one I would not have immediately expected. For this young leader, baptism was clearly a family event; it was a public entry into the family of faith. And to learn the extent of this new family was truly inspiring.

Meeting new leaders always reminds me that the Spirit of God is very active. The tendency can be to look for those who are like what you see in the mirror. But that would be a pretty limiting expectation of God. Perhaps the better place to locate new leadership is to look at the places that appear the least like present leadership.

I am confident that the church is in good hands, even if those hands do not yet recognize that they are holding it. God's Spirit is at work. Hearts are being stirred. Imaginations are unfolding. Yearnings are being strengthened.

I pray that new leaders will be met with all that is needed to give their dreams and visions wings.