Rev. Eric C. Alm
Pastor, Parish of the Plains
13920 County Road 46
Lodgepole NE 69149
From Our Pastor
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
2012 will undoubtedly go down in history as one of this country’s most tragic, heartbreaking, nonsensical, years. We have seen some of the most horrific, unimaginable, and unspeakable evils in the last twelve months. As I write this article, I see a post on my Facebook wall. “I am tired of feeling helpless in situations like this. Somehow we all need to do something meaningful that would curb this kind of terror.” Amen.
Evil is a reality in our world. Evil is real. We tend, however, not to like to talk or even think about evil. We prefer instead to ignore it, and as long as life is going along basically okay for us, we feel just fine doing so. In the words of the old REM song re-popularized on December 20, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” In his book, Evil and the Justice of God, Biblical scholar, N.T. Wright suggests that because we tend to ignore and downplay evil, we are “shocked and puzzled when it appears.” We then do one of several things: we look for someone or something to blame for it, we blame ourselves, or we overreact, None of these responses, Wright argues, reflect a deep, mature, any responsible weighing of the problem of evil. Whether our ineffective response is due to naivete, or as Wright seems to think, an unshakable belief in progress, is hard to say. Underlying our societal struggles, I believe, lies a much deeper problem. The deeper problem, I fear, is that we as a society have become ruled by just that: fear. Fear inhibits us. It makes it impossible to have reasoned conversation involving major differences. At the same time fear polarizes us, it also paralyzes us. Fear destroys relationships. The Parish Youth Group theme this year is relationships. We are talking about relationship with God and with one another. I am carrying that theme over to confirmation, where we have begun talking about bullying. My hope for the youth is that they will learn to choose their actions in light of their relationship with God. At a recent class, we discussed at length the challenges that lie in addressing bullying. Some of the challenges they named would be better identified as barriers. From apathetic and/or lazy teachers and school officials to a “blame the victim” mentality in dealing with incidents to adults fearful of being bullied themselves for speaking up, all the challenges/barriers the kids identified had this in common: they all revolved around fear. This conversation with our youth in light of the tragic events in Connecticut has left me thinking that the deeper, more profound cause of the violence that plagues our society is not mental illness. Nor is it guns, or the supposed absence of God in schools. It’s fear. Fear is profoundly damaging. Fear fractures human beings in countless invisible ways. And fractured human beings fracture one another. And on the cycle goes. And goes. And goes. Fear destroys relationships, and it is what turns people into killers. What we are seeing right now in our society is the sad and tragic result of failing to deal adequately with fear. So what can we do? What can we do as individuals, as a community, a congregation? We can start with ourselves. Where does fear exist in our own hearts? Where does it come from? Is the fear legitimate or is it rooted in misperception and misunderstanding? Why does fear continue to be perpetuated in our community? How have we helped to spread fear? And perhaps most importantly, is it is possible for us to live not out of fear and helplessness but in trust, guided by faith and hope? If not, why not? We can’t fix the whole world. We may not even be able to fix our own tiny corner of it. And we certainly are unable to completely fix ourselves. We are broken people. Nothing is more clear in the weeks following this horrendous tragedy. We are broken, wounded people in a broken, wounded nation. But we are also held, loved, and guarded by a God who loves us so dearly as to offer his own child for us. More than any other human being, living or dead, can or will ever be able to fully grasp the experience of another human being, God understands our hurt. What can we do to fight effectively our feelings of hopelessness?
We can pray. And keep praying. God is not afraid. He is listening. Pastor Alm