Through the Glass Darkly; Our Fear of Strangers

The premise of my journal entry, The Fear That Divides Us, was that many Americans today seem to be overwhelmed by fear of those who are strangers or in some way not-like-us.  Of course, this is nothing unique to our time or generation.  Fear of ‘the other’ has been around as long as there have been human beings.  Historically, it seems difficult to love and accept those who we cannot relate to or understand.  We are naturally suspicious.

“I think what we’re seeing today is just because the spiritual waters have receded and so all the filth that lies at the bottom of human nature, so to speak, is being revealed.  Hatred has always been around.  Obviously, it’s human frailty that causes that, and tribalism, and then fear of the stranger.” ~ Rabbi Moshe Scheiner Beyond Fear and Anger

Categorizing, diagnosing, and labeling people allow us to disguise our fears by compartmentalizing them.  It allows us the smug comfort of stereotyping groups of individuals so that we are never required to know them on a personal level. Perhaps this is at the root of our crisis of fear in America.  We have insulated ourselves so tightly that it is impossible to know one another.  Our perception of spiritual, philosophical, physical, emotional, and moral otherness has reached explosive proportions.  

The apostle Paul broke down walls of spiritual division and exclusivity by bringing his message to the gentiles more than two thousand years ago.  He understood that the gospel of love was meant for everyone and found getting to know people eliminated fear and created bonds of oneness. Paul discovered the face of God in everyone everywhere. We are seeing through the glass darkly because we cannot bear to look at the stranger face to face. (See 1 Corinthians 13:12).  Our fears will not be dispelled until we are fully known to one another.