Musings on Our Mess: Can We Make a Better World?

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messy puzzle

“The mess we’re finding ourselves in is one of suspicion, anger, hatred, chaos and confusion.”

This is the sentence I wrote in my journal a few days after June 12, 2016, in the wake of the Orlando Nightclub Massacre. (Remember that? So much has happened since, all over the world. Still, I’m posting this article today as a reflection that, sadly, remains relevant for us.)

Yet Another Shock to our Collective Systems

June 12, 2016. It was a Sunday evening filled with blood. A mess. The deadly shooting led to 50 deaths and scores of injured. And the shooter self-identified, right before his own death, pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State Terrorist group.

Murder. Cold-blooded murder. Life taken by another has no place in a free society. Or in any society. When one life is taken through injustice, we should all mourn. 

And what happened – it’s produced profound sadness in my heart. My prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims. It is a huge loss of life, and a very personal one for so many.

My condolences also go out to the family of the murderer. They seem equally shocked at the aberrant behavior of their son. Life forward will be so tough for them, too.

As a parent of three, I can say this with confidence. No parent, no matter what the beliefs, culture or background, wants to see their child do something like this to others. Ever.

The Full Scope

I feel as if there are two other major victims resulting from this specific incident. Ones that may not be getting the media attention right now, but need to.

The first are Muslims all over the world (and particularly in the West) who do not subscribe to this type of radical Islam at all. Regardless of what you may believe about our world’s second-largest faith, in my work with Muslims from all over the world, I’ve come to see one idea very clearly.

The majority of Muslims do not want this madness! They are peace-loving people who simply want to live out their lives with reverence for God and respect for their fellow man. Their desire is for a better world for their children. They focus on the daily requirements of life – food on the table, education for their children, care for their elders. Most Muslims are not interested in or focused on taking over the world.

Ask me. I know. I have dozens of Muslim friends.

Please don’t call me naïve. I have read and been exposed to “insider accounts” that would give you the sense otherwise. But, again, I am not talking about the fervent fringe. They are the ones our media highlights. For every one of them, there are millions of others who don’t subscribe to the radical tenants of jihad, even if you can point to verses in the Qur’an that speak of it.

One of my Indonesian Muslim friends posted on Facebook following the Orlando Nightclub shooting:

“I don’t know how many times I felt this way…the feelings of being afraid of being Moslem in here…. I was here during the Paris bombings and San Bernardino, and now this Orlando shooting. I know it will get better in time, but with the political situation, this one is different…. Just feel uneasy going out wearing headscarf with the attacks still hot in the news.”

My heart is so sad my friend has to endure this type of “victimization” as well.

How my beliefs integrate with this madness

I am a dedicated Christ-follower. When I consider history (and the present) and the times a powerful few have used Christianity to justify self-serving, and even villainous, acts, it sickens me. I want to scream out, “This is not the God I believe in!” And yet, sometimes, those who are not genuine Christ-followers will presume this is what all Christians believe.

Another example is how our media has given the impression that “Christian nations” approve of sleazy sexuality. Just because our media often promotes promiscuity does not mean it represents my values. This, too, can be such an affront to my own faith.

And I want to cry out just like my Muslim friend, “This is not what I believe!!! This is not what I stand for! Don’t be confused!”

The second “victim” is freedom and the system for which our forebears fought so hard to secure.

Men and women envisioned a land of equal treatment of men, women and children regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs, skin color and gender, rich or poor, educated or not. This, of course, was an ideal. In truth, the development of most countries into the modern age involves plenty of injustice and bloodshed.

The ideals our system was created upon – many which spring from the very heart of God’s Judeo-Christian guidelines – are threatened by not just the terrorism of our age (which I will not deny, is a huge threat) but also the backlash isolationist attitudes sweeping over our nation and so many others.

Our politicians immediately swooped in on this event and began spinning it for their political gain. It feels like a sickening feeding frenzy!

Is there a solution?

How do we overcome this mess? Are we bound to be stuck in it forever? Can we make a better world? Is it within our power to do so? These questions swirl around in my mind.

The solutions are not simple because the problems are complex. I believe strongly that building a wall or barring Muslims from entering the U.S. – a policy of exclusion  – will only lead to greater problems. A path of fear-mongering, isolationism and division does not lead to the long-term solutions we need. We cannot let ourselves be swept up by proposals that don’t address the real issues.

What are those real issues? I believe they lie at the heart of each human being. I believe they involve connecting with people across potential divides due to differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, generation, race, religion, and socioeconomic status. It happens most successfully at the heart level.

One-to-one or in small groups. Where real relationships start. When you develop real relationship, it fosters care, compassion and connection. And that is what we need – a macro revolution on countless micro levels – all over our messy world.

Future posts will explore more exactly HOW we can do that. Stay tuned – and feel free to add your comments & ideas below.


Image credit: Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

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Caroline DePalatis

Founder & Interculturalist at CultureWeave
Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she's still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer's awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there's dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!
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Interculturalist

Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she's still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer's awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there's dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!