Enough of Supersize Fear

If there is universal word and emotion in 2015, it is Fear. Phobia. Anxiety. Paranoia. This is nothing new for humankind even if we somehow think that the challenges are unique to our times and situation. Just study history, autobiographies,  ancient literature like the Bible and see that people and nations have always struggled with fears and have chosen many different ways of dealing with it. Some wise, some foolish and even dangerous.

Still, it seems that for our generation the events of 2014-15 and reactions to these events have taken a whole new level. This year I have been on three continents – Asia, Europe and North America – and fear is ‘in the air’. In people’s conversations and minds, publications, newspapers, internet, TV, radio, politician’s statements… and on and on.

I am not immune to fear. You know, the common childhood fear of the dark, of ghosts, of snakes under my bed, of strange people, of unknown, of deep waters and hidden creatures.  I also grew up in an atmosphere of fear during the Cold War which is a long story in itself. Then I started to travel the world because of my job and I have been in many ‘scary’ situations, but that is also another story.

What I want to talk about is our current obsession with all kinds of ‘threats’. Inside and outside enemies. We are afraid and anxious but we keep feeding these fears until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. For example, many of my friends in Thailand are afraid of ghosts and evil spirits, but they love going to horror movies. (As I often tell people in the US, the horror movies in Thailand make Hollywood-ones look like PG rated.) OK, I am not an expert but let me tell you – they are very disturbing. So, my Thai friends get even more afraid of evil spirits. Our neighbor across the street always left the room lights on during the night.

Fear (2)

True, many people can distance themselves from fiction but what about so called ‘non-fiction’? Like the news? We get into arguments how much of the news is actual facts and how much is ‘fiction’. My point is though that I don’t understand how people can feed themselves with this steady diet of fear. It is like the documentary “Supersize Me” but this time we are not talking about food but our phobias.

Don’t misunderstand me. I follow the news. I watch the international news channels; I read stories online; I do my own research. I want to be informed but I don’t want to be formed by it. I want to be formed by those things that are Christ-like.

Recently in Latvia I attended some very interesting lectures about our most common phobias. For Latvians, here is the link to Zanis Lipke Memorial Museum and the recordings of these lectures.

All of us could give lists of names and things and global trends that we are afraid of. What are Latvians afraid of? At the top of the list would be Russia and the migrant crisis in Europe. What are Russians afraid of? I would have to ask my Russian friends but from previous conversations I know that there has been a steady diet of fear of the West, NATO and special mistrust of the US. I am sure that terrorism is on people’s minds, too, and fear of getting on airplanes now.

Of course, Islamophobia is wide-spread. As evidenced by the shocking fact that Donald Trump can make bizarre statements and not feel like he has completely disqualified himself from leading a nation. We all have some very embarrassing (mildly speaking) politicians but he must be going for the prize.

All of us – Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists… Latvians, Thais, Russians and Americans  – are afraid of the exact same things: conflict, war, terrorists, unemployment, poverty, instability, fast change, the unknown, many of the aspects of globalization like migration, climate change.

So, my question is – how much more afraid do we all want to get? How much more do we want to Supersize These Fears? Personally, I have had more than enough. Some fears and anxiety are reasonable and need to be addressed and discussed and wrestled with but the excess I want to vomit out. It is not nutritious for my soul. It poisons my whole being.

Fear affects our mind, emotions, physical well-being, but worst of all, it erodes our relationships. It causes us to isolate ourselves or to start acting like mean dogs who attack and bite out of fear. Fear is a horrible and dangerous adviser and motivator.

Who is your adviser in these challenging times? What is forming your reactions and actions? Next week I will tell you what brings me peace of mind and heart and helps me sleep at night…

Klaipeda 22

 

Latviski:

Šajā, 2015. gadā ir viens vārds un emocija, ko piedzīvo visā pasaulē. Bailes. Fobija. Trauksme. Tas nav nekas jauns, pat ja mums liekas, ka patreizējās problēmas un izaicinājumi ir kaut kas īpašs. Pietiek pastudēt vēsturi, autobiogrāfijas, senos rakstus kā, piemēram, Bībeli, lai saprastu, ka cilvēki un tautas ir vienmēr saskārušies ar bailēm. Un cīnījušies ar tām daudzos un dažādos veidos. Gan gudri, gan negudri un pat bīstami.

Un tomēr 2014.-2015. gads ir nesis lielu izaicinājumu mūsu paaudzei, un cilvēku reakcija uz notikumiem ir pacēlusi šīs bailes jaunā līmenī. Esmu bijusi trīs kontinentos – Āzijā, Eiropā un Ziemeļamerikā, un bailes virmo gaisā. Gan cilvēku sarunās un prātos, gan plašsaziņas līdzekļos un sociālajos medijos, gan politiķu runās un darbos… un tā tālāk.

Man nav imunitāte pret bailēm. Bērnībā piedzīvots viss – bailes no tumsas, no spokiem, no čūskām zem gultas, no svešiniekiem, no dziļa ūdens un visa, kas tur dziļumā čum un mudž. Arī bērnība Aukstā kara atmosfērā bija pilna baiļu un trauksmes, bet tas ir atsevišķs stāsts. Vēlāk darba braucienos esmu bijusi daudzās ‘bailīgās’ situācijās. Arī par to kādā citā reizē.

Kam es gribu pievērsties šodien, tā ir mūsu pašreizējā apsēstība ar visāda veida ‘draudiem’. Gan iekšējiem, gan ārējiem ienaidniekiem. Mēs baidāmies un esam uztraukušies, bet turpinam barot šīs bailes, līdz pravietojums pats sāk piepildīties. Piemēram, daudziem maniem draugiem Taizemē ir ļoti bail no spokiem un ļauniem gariem, bet viņiem ļoti patīk šausmu filmas. Neesmu eksperts, bet Taizemē tās tiešām ir baismīgas. (Bieži esmu teikusi amerikāņiem, ka Holivudas šausmenes ir salīdzinoši vieglas.) Un lūk, mani draugi taizemieši vēl vairāk sāk baidīties no ļauniem gariem. Mūsu kaimiņiene pa nakti vienmēr atstāja istabu gaismas ieslēgtas.

Protams, lielākā daļa cilvēku prot atšķirt izdomu no īstenības, bet ko darīt ar šo “īstenību”? Piemēram, pasaules ziņām? Mēs gan strīdamies, cik daudz šajās ziņās ir faktu un patiesības, un cik daudz ir izdomas vai pus-patiesības. (Arī tas ir labs stāsts citai reizei.) Mani nodarbina jautājums, kāpēc cilvēki sēž uz šīs baiļu diētas. Gluži kā tai dokumentālajā filmā “Palielini mani” jeb “Pārbaro mani”, kas rādīja ātrās ēdināšanas sekas. Šoreiz mēs nerunājam par ēdienu, bet gan par savām fobijām.

Tikai nepārprotiet. Es sekoju ziņām – gan vietējām, gan pasaulē. Skatos starptautiskos ziņu kanālus; lasu rakstus internetā. Veicu savus pētījumus. Es gribu būt informēta, bet negribu būt ietekmēta vai iebīdīta vai iebaidīta. Es vēlos, lai mani ietekmē tās lietas, kuras mācīja un darīja Jēzus.

Nesen Latvijā es apmeklēju dažas interesantas lekcijas par mūsu tipiskajām fobijām. Šeit būs saite uz Žaņa Lipkes Memoriālā Muzeja mājas lapu, kur ir šo lekciju ieraksti.

Mēs visi varam sastādīt sarakstu ar vārdiem, lietām un pasaules procesiem, no kā mums bail. No kā latviešiem bail? Sarakstā būtu gan patreizējā Krievijas politika, gan bēgļu krīze Eiropā. No kā cilvēkiem Krievijā bail? Man vajadzēja pajautāt saviem krievu draugiem, bet no iepriekšējām sarunām zinu, ka viņiem ir bijusi pamatīga baiļu diēta – bailes no Rietumiem un NATO, it sevišķi no ASV. Domāju, ka arī terorisms ir cilvēku prātos, un negribas kāpt lidmašīnā.

Ļoti izplatīta ir islamofobija. Kaut vai nesenie amerikāņu politiķa Donalda Trampa izteicieni un izlēcieni, un fakts, ka viņam nemaz neliekas, ka jau ir sevi diskvalificējis no iespējamā valsts vadītāja amata. Mums visiem ir politiķi, par kuriem (maigi izsakoties) kaunēties, bet Donalds Tramps cīnās par zelta medaļu.

Mums… kristiešiem, musulmaņiem, budistiem, ateistiem… latviešiem, krieviem, taizemiešiem, ameikāņiem…bail no viena un tā paša: konflikta, kara, teroristiem, bezdarba, nabadzības, nedrošības, straujām izmaiņām, nezināmas nākotnes, globālās migrācijas un klimata izmaiņām.

Tāpēc jautājums – cik vēl vairāk mēs gribam baidīties? Cik daudz vairāk gribam uzbarot un pārbarot savas bailes? Es jau esmu atēdusies. Bailes un trauksme ir normāla un saprotama reakcija, un mums par to jārunā un jāpārdomā un jālemj, kā rīkoties. Bet to, kas ir pāri veselīgai normai, es gribu vemt laukā. Tas man nedod nekādu labumu. Vienīgi visu saindē.

Bailes ietekmē mūsu prātu, emocijas, pat fizisko veselību, bet visļaunākās sekas ir izpostītas attiecības. Bailes liek mums norobežoties un pašizolēties, vai arī kļūt par nikniem suņiem, kuri savu baiļu dēļ metas kost. Bailes ir slikts un pat bīstams padomdevējs.

Kas ir tavs padomdevējs šajā laikā? Kas ietekmē tavu reakciju un rīcību? Nākamnedēļ es uzrakstīšu par to, kas man dod mieru prātam un dvēselei, un palīdz naktī mierīgi gulēt…

 

Asylum seekers should know us by our love, not our fear

To begin with I want to tell my friends who are of different faith or no faith; this blog is mostly directed to those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ. Some parts may feel like an internal family debate, but in reality these are crucial questions for everyone.

Also, as I write this, Europe is on my mind. Again, I welcome everyone else to join the discussion because this topic is truly a global issue and a global challenge. It is the same ‘hot topic’ in Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America. Except maybe in some small islands in South Pacific… (no, I have not been to all these places but I do travel a lot for work and have lived in three continents)

And don’t worry; I will keep this blog short even though there is much to say. As we know, the issues are very complicated. There is already lots written and said in media, government, workplaces, family… One of my friends in Latvia commented, “On this issue everyone in my family has an opinion.” This is truly a debate that involves the society as a whole. Many of the opinions and arguments are thoughtful and respectful and helpful, while many others are simply xenophobic and unhelpful and very very fearful.

What I want to focus on this time is FEAR! People express many views and emotions when they talk about immigration, refugees, asylum seekers. Common ones is anxiety and fear. I can relate to it very well because I have struggled with many fears in my own life. Some of them are now gone; others are still lingering. So, I try not to judge other people but I can be a judge of myself. And I can speak as a Christian who is called and commanded to follow a higher law.

Jesus was constantly opposed by people who did not like his way of building God’s Kingdom or the people He included. They had their own ideas of what it means to be a godly person and what it means to have their national identity and morality and religious authority. Keep everything ‘impure’, ‘unknown’ and those ‘others’ as far away as possible. Wash your hands after you come home from a public place because who knows what or whom you have been touching.

Once Jesus answered them like this, “You have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. (…) You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” Harsh words but how many times I have felt that this is exactly what I have done; I have focused on many important things but have gotten completely blindsided but missing the main point.

The question of receiving asylum seekers is a matter of Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness! The fair treatment of the immigrant and the host community is primarily a Justice issue. Having compassion and empathy for asylum seekers is Mercy. Believing and trusting God when He talks about the love toward our fellow human being is Faithfulness. There is so much to say about each of these but I will leave that for other blogs.

What are we afraid of? Let us think about our fears and anxieties! Let us deal with them! One of my teachers said, “Holiness is moving towards darkness.”  Those fearful corners of our hearts are truly dark but everything brought in His light becomes light. And then we can love anyone who becomes our neighbor freely and practically and sacrificially!

We Care 17

Latviski:

Iesākumā es gribu pateikt saviem draugiem, kuriem ir cita reliģija vai arī nav nekādas ticības, ka šis raksts ir vairāk domāts tiem no mums, kuri sauc sevi par Jēzus Kristus sekotājiem. Tāpēc manis teiktais daļēji izklausīsies kā ģimenes saruna, bet patiesībā tas attiecas uz jebkuru.

Vēl, man rakstot, prātā ir Eiropa. Protams, visi var piedalīties diskusijā, jo šī tēma un problēmas ir patiešām globālas. Tā pati ‘karstā tēma’ Āzijā, Austrālijā, Āfrikā, Eiropā, Amerikā. Varbūt vienīgi kādās mazās Klusā Okeāna salās par to nedomā…

Un neuztraucieties; šis raksts nebūs pārāk garš, kaut gan teikt var daudz. Mēs jau zinām, ka šie jautājumi ir sarežģīti. Daudz jau ir rakstīts un pateikts gan plašsaziņas līdzekļos, gan no valdības puses, gan darba vietās, gan ģimenē… Viens mans draugs no Latvijas ieminējās: “Par šo jautājumu katram manā ģimenē ir savs viedoklis.” Šīs diskusijas iesaista visu sabiedrību. Daudzas domas un argumenti ir pārdomāti, cieņas pilni un palīdz domāt un rīkoties, bet citi ir vienkārši noskaņoti pret svešiniekiem, nepalīdz meklēt risinājumu un veicina arvien lielākas bailes.

Par to es arī gribu šoreiz parunāt – par BAILĒM! Cilvēki izpauž savus uzskatus un emocijas, kad runā par imigrāciju, bēgļiem, patvēruma meklētājiem. Bieži redzama reakcija ir uztraukums un bailes. Es to varu saprast, jo man pašai dzīvē ir bijušas daudz un dažādas bailes. Dažas no tām ir izgaisušas, dažas vēl mēgina turēties. Tāpēc es cenšos nenosodīt citus, bet pati sev gan varu būt soģe. Turklāt es varu paust savas domas kā kristiete, jo mēs esam aicināti sekot augstākai pavēlei un likumam.

Jēzum vienmēr nostājās pretī tie, kuriem nepatika Viņa pieeja Dieva Valstības celšanai, vai arī tas, kādi cilvēki tiek aicināti šajā Valstībā. Šiem kritiķiem bija savas idejas, ko nozīmē dievbijība, vai ko nozīmē nacionālā identitāte un tikumība un reliģiska autoritāte. Turēt visu “nešķīsto”, “nepazīstamo” un “citādo” tālu tālu prom. Atnākot mājās mazgāt rokas, jo nevar taču zināt, kam vai kādiem cilvēkiem tās pieskārušās.

Reiz Jēzus atbildēja tā: “Jūs atmetat to, kas svarīgākais bauslībā – taisnīgu tiesu, žēlsirdību un ticību. (…) Aklie ceļa vadoņi! Jūs knišļus izkāšat, bet kamieļus norijat!” Skarbi vārdi, bet neskaitāmas reizes esmu sapratusi, ka tieši tā esmu rīkojusies. Esmu pievērsusi uzmanību labām lietām, bet esmu bijusi gluži akla pret pašu svarīgāko

Jautājums par patvēruma meklētājiem ir Taisnīgas Tiesas, Žēlsirdības un Ticības jautājums. Taisnīga izturēšanās pret imigrantiem un pret vietējo sabiedrību ir Taisnīgums. Spēja just līdzi un sirds, kas iežēlojas par bēgļiem, ir Žēlsirdība. Uzticēšanās Dievam, kad Viņš liek mums mīlēt sev tuvāko cilvēku kā sevi pašu, ir Ticība. Par katru no šīm lietām var daudz teikt, bet tas nākamajiem rakstiem.

No kā mēs baidāmies? Pārdomāsim savas bailes un bažas! Skatīsimies tām acīs, un tiksim ar tām galā! Viens no maniem skolotājiem teica, ka “svētums ir tuvošanās tumsai.” Tie kakti mūsu sirdīs, kas pilni bailēm, ir tiešām tumši, bet viss, ko Viņš ceļ gaismā, top gaišs. Un tad mēs varam mīlēt tos, kuri kļūst par mūsu līdzcilvēkiem, brīvi un aktīvi un upurējoties!

When we look for someone to blame

Last week there were international headlines from Durban and other cities in South Africa. Any story about Durban catches my attention since I have been to this beautiful city on the Indian Ocean. South Africa is a country with amazing people. I remember sitting on the airplane watching a sunrise over the green rolling hills around Durban. Where are the lions, right?

Unfortunately last week’s headlines were sad and described tragic events. There were violent attacks against foreign immigrants. This is not the first such outburst of hatred, but the most recent one. The stories spoke of rising xenophobia in South Africa. The definition of xenophobia is „unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of their politics or culture”. As we know, it is not a South African problem; it is universal. Let’s think of our own countries…

After spending time in South Africa, I know it is very complicated and there are many challenges in this ‘rainbow nation’. Lots of bad governance, homicide, unemployment, poverty, growing in-equality between those who have and those who have not… From the news, the attacks are mainly in the poor townships and directed towards people from other African nations (with some exceptions of Asians)… That raises many questions.

Whatever the possible answers, it is clear that this anger and frustration is directed at the wrong people. Also, there are powers who can manipulate these feelings. It is easy for those who have power to start pointing fingers. The leaders can blame the media, the media can blame the leaders or the poor. Meanwhile many poor blame the immigrants… and so on. Lots of scapegoating. But the most important question becomes, „Who is my neighbor?”

I was so encouraged to read in international news about our friends in Chatsworth. Many churches, including Good News Center (a mixed Zulu and Indian fellowship), are responding to this difficult situation. Bringing food and aid to thousands of people who are sheltering in makeshift camps in one of the football fields in Chatsworth. Dennis John is a local pastor and a man of peace whom we enjoyed partnering with. He told the journalists that those behind the attacks were becoming more meticulous, driving away South Africans in relationships with foreigners.

There are peace marches and other statements of solidarity. There are many religious and civil society groups and NGO’s who are showing compassion and neighborly love. I don’t need the journalists to tell me; I know it because I have been to South Africa. I know the people there and I know that there is lots of light in the darkness.

I can only try to imagine the hardship and suffering of the people who are now afraid and so uncertain for their future. Coming from poor or conflict ravaged countries and hoping for a new and better life. I hope that the friendship of their true South African neighbors will bring them the assurance that they are ‘welcome’.

Xenophobia