“Later that night I held an atlas in my lap ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered, where does it hurt? It answered everwhere everywhere everywhere.” ~ Warsan Shire
When I read the poem above, it captured how I was feeling in light of the world events of this week. That sense that hurt is happening around the globe.
It is enormous. It is overwhelming. It is the activities in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris, and so many other countries. It is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.
It is so big that I sit in confusion. I don’t understand it. I declare a high level of ignorance about the political details. But the enormity of activities this week compelled me to try and figure some of it out.
So last night, I dove in to the Internet seeking some clarity. I read articles about terrorism and learned that there are many differences between various groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. I gathered that ISIS has interpreted scriptural texts in such a way that they are, and this is very simplified, attempting to live out apocalyptic stories told long ago. I read an article in The Atlantic by author Graeme Wood that suggests ISIS has interpreted scripture in such a way as to believe that they are participating in the emergence of the end times through their self-declaration of a Caliphate State. Wood suggests that ISIS believes they are awaiting a fight that is to occur in a specific location in Syria that will end with both an anti-Messiah who will kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters and the return of Jesus (one of the most revered prophets) who will return to earth and kill the anti-Messiah and lead the Muslims to victory (If you take time to read Wood’s article make sure you also read a response to it by Jack Jenkins).
At one point, I sat perplexed in my ongoing confusion and ignorance. “Is this my Jesus ISIS is waiting for?” I didn’t even know that my Jesus is intertwined in the ISIS story. I thought to myself, “ISIS, where do you get this stuff that you are using and manipulating to justify the horrors that you are causing?”
Then I read the gospel assigned for November 15th:
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. (Mark 13:1-8).
I realized that even in this little passage, and surely other places in the scriptures of any of the Abrahamic faiths, fear inducing stories of end times, war, and horror are right there for the interpreting. Scripture and religion has the capacity to be used for evil.
It is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.
It is interpretation that is used by the Islamic terrorists who contribute to 2% of the terrorist deaths in the world. It is interpretation that is used by Christian terrorists, like the Lord’s Resistance Army, who contribute to a high percentage of the remaining terrorist deaths in the world.
In the name of faith, and Jesus, and God, these groups defend their actions. In the name of the same God and Son who we pray to in our Sunday services.
So after hours of exploration last night, I’m not sure I have any more clarity around the why of any of it. I’m not even sure what I read was correct or incorrect, or just part of the plethora of opinions (aka interpretations) of everything that is going on.
Clarity seems beyond my grasp. Maybe it is beyond yours as well. Maybe you are left as confused and frustrated and angry as I am. Maybe, sometimes you scream to God, “why is this happening?” I do, too. Maybe, sometimes you want to look God in the eyes and scream “ENOUGH”. I do, too.
With all the talk of end times in the Christian scriptures, and articles about ISIS, some of us compelled to ask when those end times will be. Personally, I have no idea. Things like death and earthquakes have been happening for 2000 years, so I don’t really trust any sign of impending ends. But I feel pretty confident that it is God who will control when it will happen, not people or groups guided by their own interpretations and manipulations.
In the meantime, we are called to live out life here on earth and we do so with a choice. A choice to choose between fear or hope. Maybe that sounds like a weak declaration to some of you, but I have nothing else. And I think it is enough.
A choice you can make, despite all of your doubt and fear and frustration, to take today and fill it with as much hope as you can.
In last nights Internet exploration I found a quote by Naomi Cunningham, who is working in Paris. She posted on her blog, “We will be the hopeful. We will BE the hopeful.”
That’s what we’ve got. That we are invited to BE the hopeful.
It is a choice.
It may even be a leap of faith.
But it is a choice.
To be the hopeful. Until God, with the world in Gods lap, runs Gods fingers across the whole world and whispers, “where is the hope and where is the healing? And it answers; everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.”