I found myself tearing up last night…while watching a Microsoft commercial, of all things. In the commercial, Microsoft employees, along with the Harlem Youth Choir, stand outside Apple’s flagship store to serenade Apple’s employees with the Christmas carol, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” At the end, Apple and Microsoft folks hug and wish each other a lovely holiday.
This seems so ridiculous—it was just an advertisement from one of the biggest businesses ever singing to their biggest competitor–but still, it made me cry.
Of course, I know why. It wasn’t because of the first line of the song, “Let there be peace on earth,” but because of the second part: “and let it begin with me.” Spiritual teacher Byron Katie states it this way: “Peace doesn’t require two people; it requires only one. It has to be you.”
For me, December feels like the final lap of a grueling 12-month race. The world seems to have gone mad this past year: among other things, international and national terrorist attacks, the rising number of veteran suicides, and mass shootings that average more than one a day. This year’s final laps seem to have taken the madness to a new level as some presidential politics focus on eliminating the fundamental principle of religious freedom this country was founded upon.
As we stumble our way toward this year’s finish line, I’ve told myself I can’t take it any more. It’s too much, I’m tired, and I’m ready for a very long break from crazy. More than once, I found myself arguing with Facebook friends who made what I considered to be racist and prejudiced remarks, as if I believed I could actually convince them that my way of thinking was right, and they were wrong. As if I know my way of seeing the world is the “right” way!
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Oh boy.
Yet I remind myself that peace beginning with me does not equal being silent. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Some of the good people refusing to be silent are showing the rest of us the way. For example, Just Action, a group of students, faculty, and staff from Luther College, published a statement of solidarity against the Islamophobia that is sweeping our nation and college campuses. Inclusive Dubuque Network partners Loras College, Children of Abraham, University of Dubuque, and Clarke University have also written their own statements of solidarity “against the rise of public discourse coarsened by hatred, fear, and exclusion, with the tendency to kindle greater racial unrest and religious discrimination.” There may be backlash against such statements of solidarity, but these, too, can be handled in a way that furthers peace.
As we move into the traditional holiday season of “peace on earth and goodwill towards men,” I am paying attention to how this peace can begin with me. I hope you will join me.
Loras College: (abridged)
As we conclude the semester and another calendar year, we grieve the loss of human life through violence, terrorism, and war. We are further saddened by the rise of public discourse coarsened by hatred, fear, and exclusion, with the tendency to kindle greater racial unrest and religious discrimination. Yet in the face of turmoil, we recognize that we proceed through the Season of Advent, awaiting a day when light will exceed all darkness, just as Isaiah the prophet promises: “The light of the moon will be like that of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times greater, like the light of seven days” (Is. 30:26).
Together we pray that we are able to carry this joyful news of Jesus’ birth beyond our campus to a nation and a world stirred to wonder by the news that God abides in our midst. In this spirit, we heed the call laid before us a few months ago by Pope Francis when he addressed the joint session of our United States Congress: “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”
Children of Abraham:
As an interfaith community including Jewish, Christian, and Muslim brothers and sisters as well as other religious and non-religious perspectives, we, Dubuque’s Children of Abraham, stand in solidarity with those who are victims of violence, fear, ignorance, and hatred. We make this commitment at a time when the beliefs and practices of many faithful, civically-minded people are being judged by the terrible actions of a few, and we reject the irrational fear of entire religious traditions because such fear blocks the pursuit of greater purpose. We specifically repudiate those unfounded attitudes toward Islam that some public figures promote; when these figures speak, our community hears echoes of past persecutions against other religious groups, including Jews and Christians.
The Children of Abraham is convinced that such fears, and the ideas they advance, often result in unjust actions that, over time, will foster anger, resentment, and further violence. In this conviction, we stand with those individuals and communities affected by prejudice and fear and call for a continued open dialogue to pursue pathways of peace and active non-violence. Children of Abraham remains convinced that by listening to and learning from one another we all move closer to peaceful and lasting relationships and a civil, democratic society.