Welcome to 2017. In a few weeks, the Love Not Fear idea will be a year old, and in that time we have built a Facebook following of more than 700 people and a group of more than 50 people who have raised their hands to be leaders or volunteers for the movement. With great thanks to Sid we have incorporated as a non-profit and on January 19 we will hold a strategic planning session to lay out our goals for 2017 and beyond. Through all this, I continue to find people who resonate with the idea that a) there is too much fear in our world, b) love is the antidote and c) we ought to work on countering fear with love somehow. People tell me they want to do something; they (and I) just aren’t sure what.
For all this, it feels kind of like we’re stuck. Several board members have said that we need new blood and new energy, that their lives have gotten crazier, that maybe they’re losing some motivation. And let me say here that not only do I understand that intellectually, but I’ve had days where I’ve felt it, too.
The last day, though, has been the latest example of a nudge from beyond myself about this, and I want to share with you what’s popped up for me to see if any of you get a nudge as well.
As a preface, Love Not Fear needs to be open to everyone if it’s to be anything, and that includes people of all faiths including those of no faith. I truly do not believe that the concept of love overcoming fear is limited to people with a certain name for the Divine, nor is it out of the grasp of those who claim there is no Divine. But all that said, part of being inclusive is being wholly real, so I kinda have to say at this point that I do believe in a personal God, and while I’m not all that clear on the mechanics, I do believe that sometimes God brings stuff to our attention for a reason.
Late yesterday afternoon I had a meeting with a couple of friends at Panera that was primarily about a non-work, non-Love Not Fear small project, and after talking about that project and some other unrelated issues, my friends said, “Let’s talk about what’s really important.” Through their work, which is neither political nor theological, they’ve identified some trends that have them convinced that we are at a crisis moment in society, that the central institutions of our world are coming apart, that something big and new is coming that we can’t see yet. They don’t think the world is ending but do think it may feel like the world is ending for a lot of people. And they wanted to tell me that they were convinced that my Love Not Fear idea is an important element of getting to the other side of it and they want to be connected to it.
Last night, Amy, who is leading the Love Not Fear Research and Education team, tagged me on Facebook to share this sermon she found. You should really read the whole thing, but this part at the end jumped out:
“There are messengers of love all around. And again, and forever, they say: do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. For in the heart of God there is enough love to cast out fear. It is from this heart we come and to this heart we return and it beats around us and is shown in the shimmering love that absolutely covers this world. There is enough love to cast out our fear. And it’s everywhere.”
This morning, the readings that came up in my devotional included this quote from I John 3: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” And the reflection on that passage was an extended quote from a guy named Clarence Jordan who died the year I was born:
“[It] is not enough to limit your love to your own nation, to your own race, to your own group. You must respond with love even to those outside of it, respond with love to those who hate you. This concept enables men to live together not as nations, but as the human race. We are now at the stage of history where we will either take this step or perish. For we have learned with consummate skill to destroy mankind. We have learned how to efficiently annihilate the human race. But, somehow or other, we shrink with horror from the prospect not of annihilation, but of reconciliation. We will either be reconciled – we shall love one another – or we shall perish.”
He wrote that about 50 years ago, but it sure sounded like the conversation I had at Panera with my two friends the day before. If we are to make it, we need to embrace the reality that we all belong to each other.
This confluence of conversation and sermon and scripture and reflection in so short a timeframe (it was probably 12 hours from first to last) struck me as meaningful. As a divine nudge to keep at it.
And here’s what the “it” is: it’s about building a Love Not Fear community. Look, I work in the world of policy, and I’m wearing a t-shirt as I type this with a quote from Daniel Burnham on the front that says “Make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir men’s souls.” So my mind goes naturally to how the economic, political, cultural and environmental dynamics make love hard and fear easy, and left to my own devices, I’d start working on an opus for how to change policy to shift that balance. But the world we build reflects our collective heart. If you really want to change the world, start by changing hearts, and that kind of change happens one by one in a community.
Whether you just liked the Facebook page because someone asked you to, or because we posted a message that stuck with you and made you smile, or whether this is something you’ve been looking for, you’re already on the way. As we start a new calendar year, ask yourself whether you’re feeling a nudge to do something, to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” And if you want to get involved in building the skills of love and empathy together and inviting others to join us, let’s figure out together how. We need you. Drop a comment on this post, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, message the Facebook page, and we’ll get you added to our leader group so you can weigh in on what we should focus on first and how to move forward.