Fasting from Worry and Fear (Day 7)
Fear also impacts the world of politics, social interaction, and the interplay between cultures and ethnicities. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK and Commonwealth, speaks about how to approach the future without a spirit of fear. He begins by asking what people worship in modern times, saying.
I think future anthropologists will take a look at the books we read on self-help, self-realization, self-esteem. They’ll look at the way we talk about morality as being true to oneself, the way we talk about politics as a matter of individual rights, and they’ll look at this wonderful new religious ritual we have created, you know the one? Called the “selfie.” And I think they’ll conclude that what we worship in our time is the self, the me, the I.
He describes the danger of such focus on the self.
When we have too much of the “I” and too little of the “we,” we can find ourselves vulnerable, fearful and alone.. . . So I think the simplest way of safeguarding the future “you” is to strengthen the future “us” in three dimensions: the “us” of relationship, the “us” of identity and the “us” of responsibility.”
The ”us” of relationship
After reflecting on the wisdom of marrying someone entirely different from him, he states that it’s the people not like us that make us grow.
The trouble with Google filters, Facebook friends and reading the news by narrowcasting rather than broadcasting means that we’re surrounded almost entirely by people like us whose views, whose opinions, whose prejudices, even, are just like ours. And Cass Sunstein of Harvard has shown that if we surround ourselves with people with the same views as us, we get more extreme. I think we need to renew those face-to-face encounters with the people not like us.
The “us” of identity
Rabbi Sacks notes how our American memorials in D.C. tell our story through quotes from Lincoln, Jefferson, King. As a nation of immigrants, this telling of the story has allowed us to welcome the stranger among us.
But when you stop telling the story, your identity gets weak and you feel threatened by the stranger. . . . I think collectively we’ve got to get back to telling our story, who we are, where we came from, what ideals by which we live. And if that happens, we will become strong enough to welcome the stranger and say, “Come and share our lives, share our stories, share our aspirations and dreams.”
The “us” of responsibility
Focusing on “we the people,” Rabbi Sacks emphasizes that “we all share collective responsibility for our collective future.” Rather than looking to one political leader or party, the extremes at the far right and the far left, or even the presence (or absence) of God to magically solve all our problems, we need to “move from the politics of me to the politics of all of us together.”
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Let us pray,
Lord God, you embrace the strength of community working together. As we look to the future, open our hearts to seek the good of all, being people of reconciliation rather than division, communication rather than silence, partnership rather than opposition. We pray in the name of the one who surrounded himself with disciples, Jesus Christ our Lord.
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Tags: devotions, fasting, fear, Lent, worry