Another mass shooting. Syria. #MeToo. Hunger. Animal extinction. Iraq. Climate change. Deportation. Slavery. Central African Republic. Hate crimes. Rape. Animal cruelty. Oppression. Accidental nuclear war alerts. Homeless encampments. “Illegal immigrants.” Afghanistan. More mass shootings. Sex robots. Trafficking. Russian bots. Racism. Police brutality. Myanmar. Child abuse. Prostitution. Torture. Poverty. The war in Chicago. The privatization of water. Patriarchy. Prison industry. Islamophobia. Migrants.
This is our world. And I can’t breathe.
I often wonder – is God breathing? Does God care anymore? Does She wonder why we can’t stop harming each other? Has She given up on us? I certainly wouldn’t blame her.
As I sit writing this, the world outside continues. As we awake to more news that numbs us to the every day atrocities we commit upon each other, I believe, inside each and every one of us, we are screaming. We want out. We want this to stop. We are scared. We can’t breathe.
But, we don’t know how to stop. So we keep moving. We keep going. Because that’s what humans do. We keep hoping. We wonder how much time the universe will give us. Will we get a break? Will something or someone finally stop us? Are we even deserving of the chance after chance we continually receive – to get it right?
Are we worthy of saving?
The harsh reality is, every single thing (good and bad), that we are experiencing on this planet, is of our own doing. We are responsible. We are accountable. We are selfish, greedy and unscathed. Because if we were scathed in any way, shape or form, our morals and ethics would be in overdrive and I don’t believe we would be here. If we would simply choose to stop. Yet, we don’t. We find ways to explain it, excuse it, ignore it, run from it, justify it.
I can’t breathe.
Sound jaded, do I? Can you blame me? For Lent, I logged out of everything except my email. I found myself glued to my phone and social media this last year – wondering what would be tweeted next. What post would motivate me to run for cover? What trending news would once again make me wince? What world event would reach into my soul and make me, once again, ask, Why? How could this happen? I have even asked myself, My God, is this world going to end in my lifetime? Because sometimes it feels that way.
I can’t breathe.
But, then, out of no where, this hope strikes me and jolts me back to the harsh reality that I can only keep doing my part. I can only work on part of this Universal puzzle, and hope that everyone else keeps working on their part(s). Because, really, that’s all we can do. It feels powerless. As more migrants drown, as more black men get shot, as more Sikhs and Muslims face hate crimes, as Syrians starve to death, as more of our children die from bullets, as more government leaders “lead” us down the road of chaos and bigotry, as more children die at the hands of their parents, as Cape Town, South Africa, literally runs out of water, as men choose to have a sexual and emotional relationship with a robot rather than a human being, as more homeless encampments blanket my City, as more women sell their bodies to feed their children, as misogyny rules, and as more families are torn apart by deportation – we must make a choice to take back our power. We must make a choice to speak. We must make a choice to wince, but stay standing. We must listen. We must believe. We must hope. And, yes, we must have faith. You call BS? Yeah, me too. But, if we give up – those of us that care – then those that don’t care, they’ll win. And wouldn’t that be a travesty for humankind?
I guess we are, in a sense, winning, those of us that care. Because if we weren’t, we wouldn’t still be here. Maybe the hope God has and continues to carry, is US. I wish I could tell Her that She’s hoping for a miracle that might not happen. Yet, that’s the point right? Our hope, our faith, our perseverance, is not from us, but from whom God made us to be. Our hope and faith embodies God’s faith and hope. In a perfect world, this is believable, comforting, plausible, and welcoming. Yet, in the real world, tell that to the Syrian mother whose babies died at sea. Tell that to the families torn apart by “immigration reform.” Tell that to the victims of hate crimes. Tell that to the homeless, hungry, strung-out teenager, whose parents kicked him out because he’s gay. Tell that to the Muslims in Myanmar as they experience a genocide and their families disappear.
We are so flawed, us humans. Capable of such good, yet, so much bad – all at the same time. While someone is literally dying of hunger on one side of the planet, on the other side, there are 100 people sitting down to eat at a soup kitchen. I am perplexed by it all. I have no answers. Just a constant wonder as to how we got here, where we’re going, and what I can do to ensure it’s all better for those who are in the world now – and for those to come.
I’m stifled, yet, optimistic. I take this as a sign. I guess I am breathing. As labored as it is. As much as I need my inhaler. As much as I breathe out, more than I breathe in. As much as I catch my breath. It makes me wonder – if I am breathing, does that mean God is breathing too? She must be. Good thing. Because, otherwise, we would all suffocate.
Karen Leslie Hernandez is a theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to publish an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. As an instructor, Karen designed and taught an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, and she teaches workshops throughout the Bay Area. Karen currently lives in San Francisco, is consulting with the United Religions Initiative, is an Ambassador with Parliament of the World’s Religions, is pursuing her Doctor of Ministry at Claremont School of Theology, and she is also a domestic violence advocate.
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