On a tiny scrap of land, death came calling. Where the devout press scribbled prayers into cracks on an ancient wall, violence, bullets, murder, and rape shattered any illusions of peace. The victims’ great crime? Being Jews.
In Nashville, too, much closer to home, death came calling. Again, violence. Bullets. Chaos. Murder. When the guns fell silent, six were dead. The victims’ crime? Being Christian. Being white.
There were signs of it in the aftermath of the recent House race. Hours after the surprising installment of Speaker Mike Johnson, the slurs began. “He’s a Christian Nationalist!”
The press was apoplectic. How dare he be a man of faith? How dare he love his country? How dare he, of all god-awful things, be white? In other words, how dare he be just what he is?
At salon.com, this headline appeared. “To many on far left, MAGA Republicans are greater threat than Hamas.” In response to the resultant outcry, Salon finally changed the headline to a slightly less offensive “Far-right MAGA theocrats: Most dangerous threat to America.”
The fact that a love for God and country could be so threatening to a group of far-left (their own descriptor) ideologues is a weighty topic that will not be unpacked just now. Rather, I’ve been pondering the increasing need for courage in these tumultuous times.
“Courage,” says Merriam Webster, “is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” As another dictionary puts it, “The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.”
Where does one find such courage, the kind that built this nation, that forged trails out west? The kind that was willing to shed its blood and endure hardships such as we ourselves has scarcely known? Upon much reflection, I believe the foundation of this courage is love.
There are two kinds of love that courage demands. The first one is a love for truth. The second one is a love for other people. This kind of love is a fire in the belly that cannot be extinguished. It is a heart-deep conviction that cannot be excised, a resolve in the very marrow that can never be removed.
This love is the most powerful force on earth, for its roots lie in the very heart and nature of God, the author of all truth and love. This eternal spring can never be depleted or run dry. It cannot be killed with bullets. It can’t be wiped out with any bomb. The source of our courage is secure.
It is a happy fact that courage can be borrowed and loaned. When our own courage falters, we can lean on the courage of others. When ours is running strong, we can share it with those who are weak. It is a great consolation to see and hear examples of other courageous souls who are not afraid to be who they are, to say what they think, to hold fast to what they believe. It is love that fuels their actions even in the face of opposition, and it’s contagious.
Every day on my way to work, I drive past a small, historic cemetery. Every headstone has four things—a name, two dates, and a dash. It’s the dash that I’m thinking on today.
That dash represents all the living that happened between the first date and the last. It’s a mark that’s well worth pondering, and so I wonder. How am I using my “time in between,” all those years in between those two numbers? Am I ruled by fear or am I ruled by love? One way creates a small, sterile, safe-seeming life while the other one feels risky and dangerous.
Walking in the way of love, I will spend my years and expend my energy on behalf of other people even if it costs me deeply. Constrained by love, undergirded by truth, I will have all mental, moral, and spiritual strength that will enable me to “face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution.” I will leave a legacy of courage for those who follow behind.
If fear and courage are both contagious, I choose to be a carrier of courage. May I, and you, and all of us together be purveyors of the love and truth that comprise this virtue. And, as always, may God bless our beloved America.
You can hear America’s small, caffeinated mom every Saturday morning on 77 WABC with James Golden, aka Bo Snerdley. There, they cover anything from the weekly essay to news of the day and life in flyover country.