“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” — E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful
I am inspired by those who have the courage to move in the opposite direction when confronted with evil. People like Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Rosa Parks certainly stand out as heroes who took a stand and shifted the tide for good in this country.
Recently, I attended a Spiritual Directors International Conference (SDI) in Toronto led by Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman. These Interfaith Amigos, as they call themselves, met after 9/11, intent about moving in the opposite direction. They teamed in gathering Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities in Seattle to provide space for expressions of prayer, grief and support, in an attempt to face the fears and threats that rocked our nation.
They continue to explore how they live the core message of their professed creeds. They are not about converting one another, but about deeply understanding one another. They find they are growing in their own faith traditions as they vulnerably face into the contradictions that exist in professing, versus living, the tenets of those faiths.
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The core message of Islam is Compassion; Christianity, Love; and Judaism, we are all One. This challenges me. Every day, I am bombarded with horrific scenes that can overwhelm me with a sense of powerlessness. I question what I can do to move in the opposite direction — to make a difference — to love, to respond with compassion as a part of the whole?
On the day the United States bombed Syria, Marianne Williamson posted a blog imploring the world spiritual community to spend five minutes placing the situation in God’s hands, meditating and praying for Syria, USA, Iran and Russia, as they plan their next move in response to the attack.
At the SDI conference, I learned of a woman who not only prays daily for our world, but also disciplines herself to feel the impact of hatred on the victims of violence. Each week, she clips a picture from the news of a travesty, like a child abandoned in a war-torn country, a police shooting, a hazing at a university fraternity. For the following week, the picture keeps her heart open to the suffering of family members whose lives have been devastated by what just occurred.
I’m reminded of words from David Whyte’s poem — “Start close in, don’t take the second step, or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take.”
Perhaps in joining prayer warriors around the world, our hearts will be open to God’s direction, and we will find the courage to take the next best step that moves us in the opposite direction toward wholeness, compassion, and love.
Cathy Rhoads is a certified Catholic chaplain, co-founder of Spirithaven Hospitality Retreat Center and attends Christ the King Church in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org