Driving across the prairies this morning I was struck by the unity of the sky and the land, of God’s creation. There was a oneness, a seamless scene as I moved along. As I thought of it I thought again of the shattered world in which we live. Sometimes it seems as though everything is falling apart. Part of that may have been triggered by the death of a couple of friends. Funerals are postponed because families are so wide spread geographically and everyone is busy with life. Trying to find a time to make it come together is a logistical nightmare sometimes. Several years ago I remember doing a service for a family who had come from California to bury the ashes of their grandmother who had died two years before.
Families also face this dis-unity. It isn’t strange to hear people talk about children or siblings or parents that live so far away they have drifted apart and have little in common any more. In fact the whole concept of family responsibility is often minimized as unimportant and impossible to manage in our frenetic society. Why else do we have nursing homes and care centers.
We certainly have faced that fractured feeling on the national scene lately. The open hostility is something you can feel. One psychiatrist on a news program said he sees more people with PTSD and deeper stress levels and fear. I watched a news clip on hate groups that have risen in numbers since 2014 the reporter said. Most of the groups are white supremacist or anti-semitic. Those who analyze these things talk about the great fear that has been stirred up in this country and actually around the world, in Europe as well. The world seems to be spiraling out of control. In a restaurant one day I heard a young woman talk about traveling to Europe which set off another person telling her the people there would as soon shoot her as look at her.
There used to be a time, at least we thought so, when every one and everything had its place. Now the thousands of immigrants pouring in from Africa across the Mediterranean, from the Middle East across the Adriatic Sea and the lands of Eastern Europe, and across our own borders the south, are changing the world landscape and nothing is as it used to be.
We are most ripe for demagogues when we are afraid and fear is contagious. In the early days of the Great Depression of the 1930s people were terribly afraid. We needed a strong leader and Franklin Delano Roosevelt seemed to fill that role, but he did it under the democratic ideals in which he believed. And he said, prophetically, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear will destroy the fabric of our society if we give in to it. We fear change as well. Most of human history we have been the most satisfied in our settlements surrounded by those like us and by cultural traditions with which we are comfortable. And yet history is change. We cannot just live in today, to identify ourselves we have to have a history both personally and nationally. “Those who cannot remember the past (or choose not to) are condemned to repeat it.”
Will this world change -- it is changing around us all the time. Perhaps we are living in another age of migration when massive numbers of people are shifting locations and moving across the geopolitical landscape. It has happened before and will again. Human kind are a restless species. Dislocation does bring disruption in our life patterns but we have to adjust without demonizing “the other” as we have been doing. My fear is always lessened by my faith and the assurance that no matter what happens God stands with us in the middle of it all.