In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe
and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.
Be comforted; the world is very old,
And generations pass, as they have passed,
A troop of shadows moving with the sun;
Thousands of times has the old tale been told;
The world belongs to those who come the last,
They will find hope and strength as we have done.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “A Shadow”
The shadow’s the thing.
If I no longer see shadows as “dark marks,”
as do the newly sighted,
then I see them as making some sort of sense of the light.
They give the light distance;
they put it in its place.
They inform my eyes of my location here, here O Israel,
here in the world’s flawed sculpture,
here in the flickering shade of the nothingness
between me and the light.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
I find myself seeking the safety of hiding in the shadows under a rock where lukewarm moderates tend to congregate, especially on Sundays.
Extremist views predominate simply for the sake of staking out one’s claim to one’s political turf. There is no spirit of compromise, negotiation or collaboration – that would be perceived as a sign of weakness. Instead it is “my way or the wrong way.”
I’m ready to say “no way,” as both sides are intolerably intolerant of the other as I watch them volley back and forth over my cowering head. As someone who is currently volunteering oodles of hours to help manage a community’s response to end COVID controlling our lives, I find myself smack dab in the middle of extremes.
The chasm is most gaping when we bring up any discussion of faith and how it influences our response to the pandemic. Religion and politics are already angry neighbors constantly arguing over how high to build the fence between them, what it should be made out of, what color it should be, should there be peek holes, should it be electrified with barbed wire to prevent moving back and forth, should there be a gate with or without a lock and who pays for the labor. Add in a pandemic to argue about and we become stymied and paralyzed.
In a country founded on the principle of freedom of religion, there are more and more who believe our forefathers’ blood was shed for freedom from religion and others feel there can be only one religion here.
Yet others feel we are founded on freedom from science and epidemiological data, because what possibly can those researchers know when the random person on YouTube says something far more palatable?
Give us the right to believe in nothing whatsoever or give us death. Perhaps both actually go together.
And so it goes. We the people bring out the worst in our leadership as facts are distorted, the truth is stretched or completely abandoned, unseemly pandering abounds and curried favors are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Enough already. Time for the shadows to abate and the Light to shine.
In the midst of this morass, we who want to believe still choose to believe but won’t force belief on anyone else. It’s called freedom of religion for a reason.
There is just enough Light shining for those who seek it. No need to remain blinded in the shadowlands of unbelief or “my way or the highway.”
I’ll come out from under my rock if you do.
In fact…I think I just did.
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