Where Have All the Candles Gone?

There seems to be so much anger in our country these days.

Some folks in the Midwest seem to think that a man whose primary message was “Love your enemies” would have walked around proclaiming “Death to _______” (fill in the blank there with anyone they disagree with). Then there was the misguided man in Florida ready to burn the Qu’ran, as if that would do anyone any good.

We’ve been torn over the rights of a religious group to build a place of worship, all in a country founded on freedom of religion.  It seems we’ve thrown out (every one of us) any hope of coming together, instead relying on the legal system to legislate our beliefs (or lack thereof) – “don’t pray in school,” “don’t teach evolution,” “don’t teach creation,” “don’t be gay,” “don’t put a building there.”

Don’t be Buddhist.

Don’t be Muslim.

Don’t be Christian.

Don’t be Atheist.

And for goodness sakes don’t be kind or attempt to understand those you vehemently disagree with.  They’re just idiots. All of them.

It reminds me of a story in Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith:

“Since the United States went to war  in Iraq, I’ve been thinking about A.J. Muste, who during the Vietnam War stood in front of the White House night after night with a candle. One rainy night, a reporter asked him, “Mr. Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?”

“Oh,” Muste replied, “I don’t do it to change the country, I do it so the country won’t change me.”

* * * * *

Is our hatred and disdain for others accomplishing anything other than making us into lesser individuals? Can we find the way of kindness, now buried so far under the rubble of hurt and confusion and unforgiveness? There is a power in kindness – it may be the only thing powerful enough to heal our current brokenness. I think that Anne Lamott, in her obvious disdain for former President Bush, shows us one way of viewing our enemies:

“I am going to pray for our president to believe that all people deserve to be fed, and to try to make that a reality…If I were more spiritually evolved, I would mail him a friendly card, because if you want to change the way you feel about people, you have to change the way you treat them. I know that Bush is family, and that I am supposed to love him, but I hate this – he is a dangerous member of the family, like a Klansman, or Osama bin Laden.”

“Maybe I can’t exactly forgive him right now, in the sense of canceling my resentment and judgment. But maybe I can simply acknowledge what is true, spiritually-that he gets to come to the table and eat, too; that I would not let him starve. In heaven, I may have to sit next to him, and in heaven, I know, I will love him.”

Can you pray for the one who riles you the most?

Can you send them a friendly card?

Can you acknowledge their humanity, even when it is hidden under the mask of a monster?

I don’t know if I can. But I will light my candle.

4 Replies to “Where Have All the Candles Gone?”

  1. I think you may be referring to my nearby neighbors in Topeka at Westboro Baptist. They are a colorful gang. I’m tired of the anger too. I don’t have the energy. I get fired up about issues, but I don’t have the energy for that all consuming anger that some people seem to have.

  2. You know, in most of that, Lamott — who I know is a Christian — sounds extremely Buddhist. I’m just sayin’.

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