Considering the nature of the attack in Chattanooga, many people are feeling vulnerable and afraid. When I saw the signs above the recruitment office where the shootings occurred, I immediately thought about those same signs above the military recruitment offices near my home.
I wondered if this could happen in Chattanooga could it also happen in my city?
In addition to fear, many people are feeling aggressively angry with the guy who did this, the people who recruited him to this insane ideology and even the religion he claimed to follow. Given the circumstances, it's pretty easy to understand this response.
However, as our emotions are raw, there are some who are using our fear and anger as a foundation to move us toward a very divisive and familiar future.
Their message is that people who are like the gunman (Arab-Middle Eastern-Muslim) are, and will always be, enemies with people who are like the victims (American-Western-Christian) They are spreading the us vs. them mentality and often making a cool profit in the process.
What’s the alternative?
The US has changed dramatically in the past few decades. The effects of globalization are rippling throughout large cities and small towns across the country. This includes how the nations of the world are becoming literal neighbors in ways humanity has never seen.
I live in a fairly small city in the middle of the Midwest. But there have been times I have hung out with neighbors from Somalia, Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine, Pakistan and Afghanistan all in the same weekend!
We don’t always have to travel across the globe to Love our neighbors and pursue peace; we can often just walk across the street.
When we take the time to meet together, as neighbors, we naturally share the good things about American (and Christian) culture and in return we learn the good things about Middle Eastern (and Muslim) culture. It is from this foundation that we can often build lifelong meaningful friendships.
Modern day peacemaking can often be as simple as sharing a meal or tea with a neighbor.
Sadly, the horrific events in Chattanooga will not likely be the last of its kind, for a while. We have generations of enemy mentality to overcome. And regardless of our best efforts, there will always be evil people doing evil things in this fallen world but that doesn’t mean we have to embrace, and live out, the way of fear.
Instead, we can pursue Loving and learning from each other as neighbors. We can begin to reshape our communities by overcoming the ‘lessor evils’ like prejudice, xenophobia or islamophobia.
In a world where the nations have become literal neighbors the way of Love can be lived out like never before, providing us a new way forward from the shadows of Chattanooga.