We seem to be deluged with never-ending newspaper and TV coverage about the Syrian/Iraqi refugee crisis and the threat of extremist violence. Each time it shows up in my newsfeed on Facebook, cuts into a TV show I am enjoying, or I hear people in a coffee shop talking about it frantically, I am bombarded with just how much fear and terror is brought to life with these issues.
It reminds me of the river of anxiety we are unknowingly and constantly swimming in. It feels extraordinarily unsettling because I am often left with more questions than answers, which only generates more fear and helplessness around violence that is rooted in religion. It just lives there in the background, and who wants this ongoing sense of powerlessness about the potential for violence to emerge in their own backyard?
Recently I attended an event where 4 religious leaders from the Kansas City area spoke about their own faith responses in regards to confronting extremist violence and the refugee crisis here at home as well as abroad. Unfortunately the fear embedded in these issues does not often stimulate thoughtful or reasoned responses, nor ones that look to our core belief systems and faith values. This got me thinking more deeply about my own faith response, not just my words, but my actions.
Do I have a faith response to extreme violence? And if so, what is it? Sometimes, in my most upset moments, I have a fleeting thought that the only answer to insane, extreme violence is violence because that’s the only thing they could hear! Yet I know that’s not the answer. As I listened to the panelists, of course I knew there were other ways to respond, ones invoked by a deep love for my faith.
My faith tells me that what I do matters, it leaves a ripple effect for all time, a lasting legacy based on what I do and how I engage ALL life while here on earth – but how often do I really ENGAGE that belief? I realized that my faith needs to IGNITE my imagination. I mean REALLY ignite it. When I think about anyone who has committed an act of such extreme violence in the name of his or her own religion, I have to ask myself, “Does my faith ignite my imagination with the same passion and drive to take action?”
We forget that our imagination is actually neutral. It is a faculty of the mind that forms, manipulates and molds images and ideas, and these ideas, when joined with the desire of the heart, hopefully spur us to take action. Creativity is our instrument of being, and we can use it to create a life of joy, peace, compassion and kindness. Yet as I look around the world, I know we are equally equipped to use our imagination to create a life of violence, destruction and hate.
My faith tells me that we belong to each other, that without you there is no me. My faith is rooted in the knowing that God is everywhere present, and that principle we call God, Spirit, Atman, Christ Consciousness, Divine Mind, is made known in the world through me – through what I express. This expression though is not just my words of faith, it must also be the exchange between us of what matters, which is made known by what I do.
So what have I done today that is radical, outside the box, challenges conventional wisdom, and leaves people with their mouths open in wonder, all in the name of my faith – which is love, compassion, kindness and joy? Words and good thoughts alone cannot ignite my imagination to staying faithful to what I hold most dear. The next time you hear about a violent act done in the name of faith, ask yourself “Does my faith ignite my imagination with the same passion?”
We are the restoration of our original authenticity and goodness and it is time to set that on fire, time to IGNITE our imagination and go do that, the embodiment of your faith.