Tattoo…

I’m thinking about getting a tattoo … I admit it is a bit ‘mid-life’ crisis, though I phrase it as “Sticking two fingers up at the indecently fast approach of a significant birthday!” but I rather like the idea of it … if not the idea of the pain!

But despite all the cool stuff out there that’s inspiring me – there’s that bit of me that kind of still sees the ‘benchmarks’ I remember from the past; you know, the anchors, hearts, ‘Mum,’ roses and the absolute classic of ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ across the knuckles …

And in thinking about that ‘Love/Hate’ thing I realised that the whole equation was wrong, the whole idea that it was ‘Love’ on the one hand, somehow balancing out the ‘Hate’ on the other just doesn’t ring true for me … Love and Hate aren’t opposites to me.  They’re both passionate, almost overwhelming emotions in their rawest forms.  They can creep up on you, or rush at you like a charging bull, they can wipe out your carefully planned speeches in a nanosecond, they can slice through your cool like a scalpel, they can take your breath away with the heat that they surround you with; no, ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ aren’t opposites …

If you were looking for opposites, what you should have tattooed on your knuckles is ‘Love’ on the one hand and then ‘Fear’ on the other.

Let me explain

I think that hate is driven by fear, maybe anger and aggression fuelled by fear if you will.  You can see that in the hate-filled language and attitudes we see in flooding into the various media – both mainstream and online – as an ongoing response to people from a different country, or ethnicity, or politics, or religion, or sexuality, or gender identity

My guess is that perpetrators of racist, sexist, homophobic trash and such like are people deeply scared that their own identity, their own sexuality, their own religion or way of life is somehow under attack.  The alt-right/Nazi and extremist/militant views that screech for our attention, that depend upon our own fears and outrage for fuel seem to me to be absolutely dependent on creating and maintaining fear

We saw it all the way through the Brexit campaign – or rather the lack of campaign – when both sides used scare-mongering tactics to bolster their (so-called) arguments

One side told us that economic Armageddon would ensue, an employment crisis and the death of the NHS were foretold, we were informed that the UK would descend into a financial and diplomatic dark ages that would blight the future generations

The other side painted pictures of unelected, sinister, faceless bureaucrats usurping our ‘sovereignty, straightening our bananas, and sending ‘hordes’ of immigrants to flood our green and pleasant lands – simultaneously taking all our jobs and claiming all our benefits (Schrödinger’s Immigrant as it was known), whilst clogging up the NHS, schools, housing, and – in a moment of peak Farage garbage – even the motorway network

Fear – however you dress it up – won … and it would have won if the vote had gone the other way too. All we heard was the same negativity, the same nay-saying, the same terrifying prophesies on all sides … fear ran rampant, and fear won

We see fear still at work now … seemingly gaining ground at will.  Look at the rhetoric of the current incumbent of the White House and his sycophantic entourage … it’s all someone else’s fault (usually Obama’s or Clinton’s), it’s always someone else causing the problems (Mexicans, Immigrants, Democrats, the unfair Mainstream Media, Mike Flynn, James Comey …), it’s always likely that someone out there, the ‘bad hombres’ and ‘fake media,’ is telling you lies to deceive you because they hate you, they hate you, they hate you

Good grief, I see it in our churches too – the fear of the other, whether that’s people of a different faith (or denomination), or people of a different sexuality or gender – has given rise to hateful, discriminatory language and actions that are nothing to do with the gospel as I understand it.

Fear is running the argument …

Fear says we’re going to lose out on economic prosperity and political influence.

Fear says we’re going to be overrun by suicide bombers and scroungers.

Fear says that the poor are trying to take away your hard-earned cash.

Fear says gays are gunning for your marriage, gunning for your Bible, gunning for your faith.

But there’s another way …

“Perfect love drives out fear…” at least it says so in Scripture. 

Believe it or not, that’s what I’ve seen in my experience. 

Once I stopped worrying so much about what I’m supposed to be in danger of losing, once I stopped imagining that in order for me to be right everyone else had to be wrong, once I started seeing the ‘other’ as someone just like me – once I got rid of the crappy labels of “Us” and “Them” – then the idea of “Love” started to take the front foot and fight back against ‘Fear’ and ‘Hate.

Don’t get me wrong, my own fears and insecurities and preconceptions rear their ugly heads regularly, but I’m at least starting to see that they don’t hold sway anything like as much as they used to.

I’m not scared that other people might not think the same way as me, might not believe in the same things that I do … their way of looking at things, their different beliefs don’t diminish mine.

You see, perfect love drives out fear …

I don’t mean romance, I don’t mean hearts and flowers; I mean that the sheer humbling humanity of people opening their homes to others following a horrific terrorist bomb at a concert, of cab drivers making sure people got home, of homeless guys helping the injured, of a city coming together to echo Jo Cox’s statement that there is more that connects us than divides us.  That’s what drives out fear.

Firefighters hurling themselves into a blazing tower block and then ‘ordinary’ people coming together to help out those left homeless, and those bereaved, by the horrendous fire in the midst of their community.  That’s what drives out fear.

Seeing others as the wonders that they are, wanting to do what we can to help, to support, to connect because we know that’s the right, the only truly human, truly divine thing we can do when fear comes to try to break us apart, when fear tries to separate, when fear tries to kill the best parts of us…

That’s what drives out fear …

Don’t fear.

Love.

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