These days the words of the Psalmist keep coming to mind: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills; From where shall my help come?” I imagine that when he wrote these words, the chaos of his life was swirling around him, and perhaps the only way he could think to navigate his way through the immediate situation was to fix his eyes on something bigger, more enduring than the circumstances of the present moment.
Even in times of relative calm, this is a good strategy because human life can get overwhelming and the confusion of immediate situations can seem insurmountable. But I wonder if the Psalmists words are especially applicable for people of faith in Trump’s America.
Yesterday the president issued yet another Muslim ban, only the next thing in a constant barrage of policies, proclamations and rhetoric that hurt vulnerable populations by allowing and even promoting persistent and systemic abuse. We are watching repeated behavior from the president that is not befitting his office or the ideals of our country, that intentionally and unintentionally breeds fear and mistrust among us, that eats away at the fitness of our nation’s soul, and that flies in the face of fundamental gospel principles. Every day this chaos comes at us like a tidal wave and we scramble to try to discern the facts.
When caught up in the daily barrage of our newsfeeds, we find ourselves endlessly debating what counts as real facts, alternative facts or fake news. Our conversation looks something like this: Exactly how many bears have attacked elementary schools in the last 10 years? Was the Bowling Green massacre in Kentucky or Ohio and were the perpetrators the same people who attacked Sweden? How many Christian vs. Muslim refugees have we taken in? Is Congressman Lewis’ district a “disaster” or a thriving metropolis?
I wonder if this swirling chaos is just the time to take the words of the Psalmist to heart and raise our eyes. We need to raise our eyes from the frustrating confusion and fear of the world around us, away from facts that don’t really seem to be facts at all, toward the values that guide our lives and our faith.
Instead of scrambling for facts, people of faith need to embrace truth that remains constant no matter who sits in the oval office. Truths like:
- We are called to welcome the stranger.
- This earth is ours to steward and tend with care.
- In the richest country in the world, no child should ever go to bed hungry.
- Those populations among us who are especially vulnerable should be protected and cared for.
- The way we treat each other is critically important.
We know the truth about how we are supposed to treat each other and our world and it has nothing to do with whether 2016 was the hottest year on record (it was) or how many refugees have attacked our country (not a single one in over 30 years).
This does not mean that facts do not matter, that we should not care about the news alerts that flash across our phones. But in a swirling tornado of facts, it is the truth that keeps us grounded. As Christians, we are called to engage the world around us, to do the hard, messy work of building communities of justice and love and caring for the marginalized and oppressed. We cannot do that work if we are being distracted at every moment by the next crisis. We must stay focused on what we know to be true: love God. Love each other. Never read the comments section.
Every day when we steel ourselves to see what has happened on Twitter the night before, we should lift our eyes up, toward the hills, and consider where our help comes from. Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth, who has shown us how to live in relationship with each other doing justice and loving mercy and walking humbly with God. That’s the truth that will never lead us astray.