Fear is one of the biggest hindrances to communication outside our group. This group could be our little clique of friends or it could our region, our race . . . . We often don’t truly know people outside of this “pack” and there is this tendency to fear the unknown. It is exploited by people who know that they can control best by dividing and keeping people from interacting with each other on a human level. Consequently, those seeking to maintain or take power will often demonize people who are different and seek to fuel our fears so that we no longer see other people outside our group as human beings whom God has created, but as “those people,” with the subtext, “not like us” or “not really human.”
Yet God in God’s wisdom has a wonderfully varied world in both the animal and plant realms. Having seen this, you would think that by now we would have figured out that difference is natural, beautiful, and be enjoyed. But, no. We allow fear to predominate.
Can we embrace the difference in people not like ourselves and see it as part of God’s wonderful creation? Can we get past fear and seek to know each other as human beings, people with hopes and dreams, and challenges? Can we press on even when conflict arises because of our difference and know that it is just a part of the process of learning and growing together?
Maybe we need conversion. Addressing a multicultural context, Kathleen T. Talvaacchia describes conversion as: “Turning away from judgments about groups of people without understanding the complexities of their experiences of social structural and personal discrimination” (Talavacchia 2003, 65). In other words, conversion means that we move away from coming to conclusions about a particular social group about whose context and experiences of prejudice at a personal and structural level we are ignorant. This means accepting that prejudice/discrimination at those levels is real, finding out the ways in which it is experienced and exercised, and locating ourselves in its various manifestations. It also means engaging with various social groups and using various means to learn all that we can about each other. Bottom line, it means letting go of fear.
How will you name and let go of your fears of the other?
Loving God, Loving Neighbor