People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I sought to prepare a Catch today surrounded by quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was overwhelmed. My first attempt tried to capture too much and as a result didn’t capture much of anything. So I’ve chosen one quote that applies the most to where I think people are at right now. It has to do with fear, and it begins with this: “People fail to get along because they fear each other.”
Fear is dominant in our society. Fear is a huge motivator. It raises funds and even gets people elected. Because of this, fear has played a big role in the Christian subculture when it has no business ever being in a Christian’s life. Fear keeps us apart from others because it isolates us with only what we know. We feel safe with what we know and understand, which keeps us afraid of whatever is outside our protective environment.
Racial discrimination is based on fear — fear of the unknown. “[People] fear each other,” Dr. King goes on to say, “because they don’t know each other.” Thus fear keeps us apart — each fearing the other simply because we are unknown to each other, and in most cases, due to fear, would prefer to stay that way.
And keep in mind that discrimination is not just racial — it extends to anything I don’t understand — that which is outside my comfort zone, which might include Muslims, Buddhists, gays, atheists, the homeless. It’s all about that which is perceived as different from me or unknown.
How do we overcome this? How do we break into this fear? We get to know somebody. One person is all it takes. If you’re afraid of Muslims, just get to know a Muslim. Putting a human face on a category changes everything. Fear dissipates because we aren’t talking about Muslims any more, we’re talking about Hassan and, in my case, Hassan likes a lot of sugar in his coffee.
There’s a guy I pass every time I walk into the bank. He is homeless. The sight of him makes me afraid. I try to see past him or, as if he didn’t exist at all, through him. The fear dissipates, however, when I tell him I am going next to Starbucks and could I get him a cup of coffee too. Suddenly, he’s not that homeless guy but a man named Dan who likes his coffee with cream.
That’s what Dr. King is talking about. “They don’t know each other, because they have not communicated with each other.” All it takes is connecting— one to another. Initiation dissipates Fear. To connect, to communicate is the best weapon against fear. Because once we start to connect, fear is no longer there.
Connecting is the beginning of introducing the Gospel of Welcome —received yet undeserved Grace, Turned Outward to another — one person at a time.
How do you like your coffee? I take mine black.