Choosing Faith over Fear
by Dan Kimberg
Last week a noose was hung in front of Duke University’s student center. This symbol of hatred, racism, and evil was removed only a few hours later, but its presence can still be felt on campus, in our community, and across our country. The noose is meant to instill fear, to remind people of color of both the history of oppression and the racism which still corrupts our systems today. The noose has been used to execute thousands of people across time, killing brothers and fathers, mothers and sisters for no reason other than the color of their skin. This week the noose attempted to kill its most coveted target: faith.
The noose was placed in front of the building which houses Duke’s Center for Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. The noose declared to those who dedicate their time to creating a more inclusive world, that some people are not welcome. The noose screamed: Give up. Hang your faith out to die.
To have faith is to believe in something bigger than oneself and bigger than one moment. To have faith is to understand the connectivity of all people and the collective spirit which guides our world forward. To have faith is to have confidence in a potential that has not yet been realized and in a good that will always triumph over evil. To have faith is to know that heaven’s final destination is not the distant horizon but rather right here on Earth. To have faith is to speak the words of King, Mandela, and Malala, not to memorialize yesterday’s heroes but to motivate tomorrow’s. To have faith is to see a noose and to know that despite how far we still must go, we will never stop moving forward.
This attempt to kill faith is unfortunately not isolated. Two weeks ago, Duke students tried to drown out our faith with a racist chant directed towards a Black woman. Last week, our faith was shaken by the massacre of 147 University students in Kenya. Less than two months ago, our faith was shot at when three Muslim students where senselessly murdered outside an apartment building in Chapel Hill. And before that, there was Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and hundreds of other undocumented acts aimed at the destruction of our faith. Our faith is under attack.
To have fear is to hide in the shadows of reality, unwilling to search for the sun. To have fear is to crumble at the feet of those who exert power. To have fear is to ignore the light which burns so bright inside of us and to forget that even one single light can illuminate a room. To have fear is to be paralyzed into inaction, to be torn down, broken into pieces, with little hope of becoming whole again. To have fear it to accept defeat.
As a White male saturated with unearned power and privilege, I am afraid. I cannot begin to imagine the fear felt by those in my community who do not carry with them these same entitlements. And yet, I still say, we must choose faith.
If our collective faith is successfully hung or shot or drowned, what do we have left? Without faith, we are individuals trying to survive. But with faith, we are a collective community, striving to thrive. With faith we move forward to a time when our college students are welcomed on all campuses. With faith we move forward to a time when unarmed men walk freely down a city street. With faith we move forward to a time when women around the world can safely access education. With faith we move forward to a time when the transformative power of love brings peace to our society.
To have faith is to respect the diversity of people’s faith. Whether one’s faith is derived from Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, or a beautiful sunset, we must choose faith.
We must choose faith. We must believe in today’s defenders of faith. We must believe in Bettina and Alexandra and Ashley. We must believe in our students, in our parents, in ourselves. We must choose faith, fight fear, and continue to walk together to a better future.