I’m going to get political here because, like a Cecily Strong character on Saturday Night Live said recently, “I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me, all right?”
Yes, I’m afraid and it’s hard to keep the faith. Most of the people I know are afraid and many of those I work with in spiritual direction are afraid or at least bothered by threatened cuts to Medicaid, health insurance benefits, disability insurance; a federal budget that cuts taxes on the wealthiest people while taking away government subsidies to the poorest; heightened discrimination against Muslims, undocumented immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ persons and women; and on-going revelations about how Russia most likely interfered with our election process.
How do we keep believing that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice in the midst of news alerts that scare the hell out of us?
I don’t pretend to have the answer for everyone, but here’s what is working for me these days:
- Reading sacred texts that promise God’s justice will win in the end. A few that are helpful include “pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18), “let justice roll down like a river” (Amos 5:24) and the angry Psalms that cry out to God for justice (Psalm 10:1, 22:1, 42:9). New Testament stories where Jesus emphasizes that the last shall be first and the first shall be last (such as Matthew 20:16) are comforting as well.
- Meditation. Taking 10 minutes here and there throughout the day especially when I’m overwhelmed by news I find upsetting helps me gain perspective. Simply being in the present moment, listening to the ambient sounds in the room, concentrating on my breathing brings me to a place of greater peace.
- Rational thought. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but review is always helpful. Many of our fears come from those “what if?” questions we dwell on. Instead, look at what is actually happening and how it affects us right now. So far, very little has happened! The anti-Muslim travel ban was stopped in federal court, the proposed budget has not been accepted, the Affordable Health Care act is pretty much intact (although suffering from malicious neglect), and the Paris Climate Agreement that our President just withdrew the U.S. from doesn’t go into effect until 2020. Most of what I fear is in the future. One exception is the increased deportations of undocumented immigrants. That is happening right now and is being fought on many fronts. My rational thinking also reminds me that a great many people in our country are resisting the bulk of these proposed changes—so it’s not like one side has all the power.
As a Christian, I am taught that the road toward justice is never easy. That was borne out by the life and death of Jesus. My prayer is that people seeking justice for the poor, sick, elderly, alienated and displaced will become stronger as we band together and make our voices heard.
Keeping faith in the midst of fear is a challenge. But I will choose faith every time.