The events that happened in Nice, France on Bastille Day bring sadness to my heart, especially as we witness the suffering of innocent people at the hands of terror. Pictures of those killed in the attack, especially the ones lying on the street draped in a cover with a stuffed animal nearby, break open my heart. All the human potential that was lost as a result of slaughtering innocent lives is hard to imagine or understand.
I have just finished a book by Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: the Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. It is a powerful piece of writing. Palmer’s insights into how we must live as a community of people are poignant, revealing his deep understanding of the human condition.
He closes his book with these words:
The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr understood all of this deeply and well (his reference is to the full engagement in the living of our own lives). He (Niebuhr) wrote the best words I know to bring this book to a close.
Here are those words. When I read them they spoke to me about the challenge ahead as we try to make sense of the countless acts of terror around the world that have killed thousands of innocent lives and leave us on edge wondering can we learn to live together in peace?
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
(Parker references Niebuhr’s words from his book, The Irony of American History, 2008)