I didn’t start the fire, but am I trying to fight it?

In 1989 Billy Joel wrote a song called, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The chorus rang out: 

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning

We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it.

Did we? Have we? Are we? Will we?

I agree the fire’s been burning since the world’s been turning, but I’m not so convinced that we’ve been trying to fight it.

The recent sickening murder of nine Christians in their own house of worship, just because they were black, says otherwise.

Many of us are appalled and saddened by the senseless taking of good people and the subsequent suffering of family, friends and their worship community. But what have we done to put out the fire? Really?

This world is rife with whites hating blacks and blacks hating whites; Christians hating Muslims and Muslims hating Christians. Prejudices and bigotries are cocked and loaded, ready to fire at Hispanics, Asians, those of various sexual orientations, the elderly and the unborn.

I think many of us can say, “That’s not me.” But is it really? I think we’re all part of the fire. I believe that many of us have our own deep down prejudices and bigotries. Our thoughts reveal them internally even though our actions may not. Or, our actions may be subtle.

We cringe when a homeless person sits next to us on a bus or asks us for change. We complain because businesses and agencies seem to cater to non-English-speaking people. We’re irritated when directed on the telephone to someone “who doesn’t even live in this country.”

When people talk to us do we really listen? Do we quickly change the topic of conversation to ourselves?

We’re envious of those who may have more than we do, but believe we work harder and deserve it more. We blame the world’s woes on others — trouble-makers, low-lifes, barbarians. We see those who don’t share our Christian values as the enemy.

I shudder to think what God must feel as He watches the world’s legacy play out.

I wonder if He’s sorry He made the promise to never again flood the earth and start from scratch. I wonder how many of us would truly deserve a seat on the new ark.

The world’s fire — do we really try to fight it or do we fuel it? The smallest sparks can lead to the largest conflagrations. Somehow we feel we have the right to be judge, jury and sentencer.

I could be all wet with this column. Maybe there are many more out there who don’t harbor any prejudices or bigotries or jealousies. I hope so.

I guess I’m just speaking for myself. I like to think I don’t hold such feelings, but I do know there are times when my thoughts make me ashamed of myself.

It’s tragedies like the S.C. AME Church massacre that force me to reassess my heart and soul.

I want to be a person who fights the fire. I suppose that’s going to begin when I extinguish the small sparks within.

I’m not in the same category as the poor soul who shot up a church, or who kills out of hatred. But I do have those little sparks that, kept unchecked, can fuel the fire.

I pray that I can fight it. I pray that I will.


© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts