That's a direct quote from a man with whom I was standing in a checkout line looking at newspaper headlines. "The world is on fire," he muttered, and we exchanged looks.
Just the other night, when talking about a drug that ISIS soldiers are taking to help them feel invincible, Stephen Colbert said, "I think I speak for everyone who has been watching the news when I say, 'Can I get some of that?'"
ABC News' December 14th article "The Anatomy of Trump's South Carolina Supporters" also paints a picture of people, people who live here in SC, who are so afraid of potential terrorist attacks and mass shootings at the mall that Donald Trump's strong words about immigration and defense have made this a one-issue decision for them.
The world is on fire. Paris, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Charleston, military bases, Syria. A pile of words that are kindling to an escalating unease that every-once-in-a-while starts to look a lot like panic. And here we thought it was beginning to look like Christmas.
I don't want the world to be on fire. Most of us, in fact, would prefer those things that Christmas so often brings to mind - peace, love, hope, and joy. We like those kinds of things (it's part of why we like Christmas so much,) and we like them, mostly, because we believe that they work. When hope and optimism, compassion and kindness, love and grace are employed in a life, a community, or a nation they seem to lead to better and better things. They work.
This fire stuff - violence, ignorance, oppression, fear - these don't seem to work so well. (You'd think we'd remember that, what with Star Wars paraphernalia everywhere you look. These things lead to the dark side, people.) All joking aside, though, when compared hope and kindness, violence and fear are broken. They do not lead to increased life or quality of life. They do not lead to better societies or communities or families. They lead to deterioration, destruction, and pain. They lead to fire.
The world is on fire. The fire is sin, and sin is anything that doesn't work. The broken things that cause more brokenness. The ignorance that leads to hatred. The prejudice that leads to injustice. The ambitions that leads to deceit. The deceit that leads to ignorance. The sparks that lead to fires. The fires that lead to infernos.
The world is on fire, and so I'm asking you, as a regular guy who doesn't want to see anyone else get hurt: Please, don't fight fire with fire anymore. You're allowed to be passionate about your beliefs and active to pursue your rights. But please, everyone, do not fight fire with fire. When people speak out in ignorance, do not respond in sarcasm. Both destroy. When people shout hateful things, do not respond unfairly. Both are broken. When people are deceitful, don't hate them. What will that accomplish?
Some may suggest that, sometimes, fiery words offer a kind of light to a situation that wasn't there before. Certainly, this particular presidential season has seen angry, fear-filled comments lead to important, necessary conversations. For some, it's been appealing to have light where there had been only dark deception or ignorance.
But even when the fire offers some light, are we okay with the destruction it guarantees? Isn't there some other way that light can be brought into our confusion without also bringing so much pain? I know we're frustrated, I know we're scared, I know we just want a safe and good world for our kids. Why aren't we doing the work that know, that we believe, brings a satisfying solution? If you're singing about peace on earth this holiday season, don't forget that "on earth" includes everyone, not only you. If you're singing about good-will toward men, don't forget that that includes people who aren't like you, who don't think like you, who don't worship like you.
Do you want a solution that works? Do you want to put out the fire? Then please, please, stop fighting fire with more fire. Start fighting it with things that we know work. Let those good things that come up so frequently in the Christmas season shape your next steps. Follow them toward a solid solution to these increasingly complicated problems that we're all trying to navigate.
And, if I may, don't just follow them forward, toward a solution. Look back. See where they came from - identify their source. Realize that Christmas wouldn't be about those good things if it weren't for the best thing - the free, unlimited, peace-bringing love of God.
The world is on fire - don't add to it anymore! We have been given a better way to fight it - the same way that God did. With love and hope and patience. With kindness and compassion. With justice and fairness. With truth and knowledge. With hearts that seek not to be served, but to serve. May these good things give us a way forward and open our eyes to a vision bigger than our ideals, our desires, or our personal well-being. May our minds be the same as that of God himself, who sees each person on this planet as someone he desperately loves, and may we act accordingly.