Trying on a New Pair of Glasses

Humans tend to look at the world through fear-colored lenses. For a species that has thrived by adapting to constant change, we’re surprisingly afraid of anything new or anyone different. People lamented the transition from telegraph to telephone, from horse-drawn carriage to automobile. Even though we began as a single group of people on the African continent, as we spread across the globe we claimed land for ourselves, drew artificial borders, and then killed the very people we once claimed as family if they attempted to enter “our” territory. In truth, there is not a single human being on the planet that is not in one way or another an immigrant. In fact, most of us are citizens of countries that our forebears took illegally from indigenous people. Here we are, 250,000 years into human evolution, so afraid of each other that our “leaders” are talking about building walls, or worse, urging us to kill innocent men, women, and children. Either way, our behavior is the result of fear-colored glasses. And it’s reprehensible.

We’ve had the wall discussion in the United States before, of course. As the U.S. pondered entering World War II, Charles Lindbergh, the famous pilot, isolationist, and anti-Semite, rallied a large and rancorous group of proto-Tea Partiers around the idea that the U.S. needed to stay out of the war and build a wall around the entire nation. While that never happened, fear drove us to an even more heinous act: We built walls around Japanese-Americans. We interred them in concentration camps for the duration of the war and took away their personal property, including their homes and businesses. Never mind that most of them had been born in the United States. They looked like the enemy. Therefore, they must be the enemy. As I said, reprehensible.

Fear is the antithesis of love. Fear creates enemies out of relatives—and every human on the planet is our relative. Fear perpetuates environments of hatred. Fear enslaves minds and bodies, drives entire civilizations to war, and eventually destroys everything it touches. What will it take for us to try on a new pair of glasses?

The ancient Hebrew people who created and eventually wrote down the stories in the Hebrew Bible, what modern people call the First Testament (or, incorrectly, the “old” testament), had a unique understanding of their place in the world. They believed—correctly—that everything humans could see, touch, taste, hear, or smell belonged to God. They saw themselves as stewards of God’s property—including each other. They took care of the land and shared what it produced with the entire community. They took care of each other’s families, and yes while they may have taken that idea to the extreme in some ways, the underlying sentiment was that they owed it to each other and God to care for one another as a single people of God.

Now, whether or not that society ever truly existed is a matter of debate. Archeologists, historians, and anthropologists continue to discuss whether or not this idyllic vision of the past was real for any period, or simply a utopian motivational story. For me, like so many stories in the Bible, it doesn’t matter whether it’s historically true or not. Because, this idea that we are one people, that all of us are God’s beloved, that we are to care for, not be afraid of each other—it represents a completely different way of looking at the world through not fear-colored glasses, but instead, through God-colored glasses. And I think it’s well past time for us to change our glasses.

Meditation: Change my glasses, God of eternal, unconditional love.

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