This being the last days of an election season in the USA, the fear factor is getting heavy play. The Republican National Committee's video, "Stakes," is not subtle. Excerpts from speeches by Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri include lines such as "With God's permission we call on everyone who believes in God ... to comply with His will to kill the Americans." The quotation fades, but the words "kill the Americans" linger a moment. Next quotation: "They will not come to their senses unless the attacks fall on their heads and ... until the battle has moved inside America." Again the words linger: "inside America." And more of the same.
The ad ends: "These are the stakes. Vote November 7th." What is this supposed to mean? The team that has been both incompetent and corrupt are the only chance we have to avoid having suitcase bombs brought into America? The Democrats would be even worse? These tactics absolutely depend on people being too fearful to think.
If it is true that security on an national scale cannot be obtained through fear and control, is it also true in interpersonal relations? In theory, I feel that it's true. I was talking to a friend about relationships and intimacy, and ventured that intimacy required yielding. To yield is not the same as to surrender; a strong person can yield; maybe yielding actually requires a certain strength. It's hard to imagine intimacy when one is holding the other at arm's length, wanting the fruits of intimacy without giving up control.
What kind of strength allows one to yield? I think it is the strength that comes from knowing that one is rooted in love--knowing without doubt that one is loved and always will be. It's not just a theoretical knowing, one has to be willing to put weight on that belief, to rest in it, to let it calm fears of inadequacy, failure, abandonment. Until that place of certainty is reached, I think one needs not to hurry into counterfeit intimacy or into defensiveness--instead, choosing to stay tender to oneself and laying doubts honestly before God and trusted friends.
I said these brave things, and then a day or two later I was caught short by a pang of doubt: speaking to my friend, I was able to defend this concept of yielding for the sake of genuine intimacy, but do I in fact yield? Or is it something that only others should do?
I won't use this space to give a glib answer; failing to recognize when to yield has been a source of great pain.
Righteous links: Last week, the Sightings newsletter of the University of Chicago's Martin Marty Center published an interesting little essay, "Acts of God or Forces of Nature?" The authors reflected on the increasingly unclear boundary between forces of nature and the cumulative decisions of humans (with Hurricane Katrina and its uneven impact being Exhibit A). Teaser:
Many religious communities are concerned about new biotechnologies and the worsening situation of the environment. But Christian theology in the west finds itself in an especially difficult position, since it has relied heavily upon some version of "Nature" to express the meaning of "grace." The present destabilization of Nature thus raises a series of challenging questions. What position are Christian theologians now in to address this loss of Nature?
Monday Morning Insight provided these reflections on the emergent church movement. Given my own struggles with unity and disunity among Friends, I was touched by the author's reflections on the cost and value of unity among people whose passion exceeds their allergies. One of his nicely-worded comments:
To me… this is the real “emergent” issue - honoring all of the Scriptures… including the tensions that fly against our personal hot button platforms… and being able to dialogue all over the place in order to find a *balance of tensions* that honors the Bible in its disorderly coherence.