Fear, danger and mugging

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at a “Mission Fest” in rural South Dakota.  It was a fun weekend of reconnecting with my traditional Mennonite roots.  Hymns in four part harmony, potlucks and popcorn for Sunday supper were an enjoyable trip down memory lane.  After one of the services we had a question and answer time.  During one of the services I had shared about my family’s journey from the suburbs to the city.  Before long I was fielding questions about safety and fear.

What kind of schools did your children attend?

Have you ever been mugged?

How do you respond after your house has been broken into?

Is it safe?

There was a time when questions like this frustrated me.  I tended to assume that the motive behind such questions was a subtle form of racism or classism.  I no longer make these assumptions.  For the most part people are genuinely curious about people who have made different life choices.

I like to use these occasions to talk about differences.  We live in a culture that teaches us to fear or be suspicious of that which is different.  This fear is reflected in many of the little and big decisions we make.  For example, people like to worship with others who hold similar faith perspectives and worship style preferences.   As a culture we like to live in neighborhoods with others who share our values (and skin color).

Choosing to live and worship outside the norm can be scary.  I like to challenge people to confront their fear of the different.  More often than not different is simply different.

That is my typical response to my family’s move from the suburb to the city.

Since returning from South Dakota two people that I am acquainted with have been mugged.  One was pistol whipped.  Both of these people live in “different” neighborhoods.  It is not a stretch to say that they were targeted, at least partially, because of their skin color.

To be honest I have no easy response to this.  Fear of the “different” goes in every direction and that fear can and does play itself out in unpleasant ways.  Personal violation is not easy to just get past.  Events like this raise some difficult faith questions.  Does God call us to safety?  When does personal well-being demand that one move or leave the situation?  What does it mean to be salt and light?  How far do we take this call?  What does it mean to be a reconciling presence in a dangerous neighborhood?



Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Fear, danger and mugging

  1. Glenn Runnalls

    It seems to me that there is something very appropriate about feeling safer with the familiar and being cautious about strange contexts. That caution is “primal” though and when we try to rationalize it with theories of the Other and such rationalization become justification for hatred, exploitation, discrimination that is clearly wrong.

    OTOH, It seems to me that when a person overcomes their primal caution of the unfamiliar they should still be learning where the real dangers lie. Everyday we walk about our familiar world avoiding the known dangers; why should we act as if an unfamiliar place doesn’t have it’s own dangers to avoid? God may call us into dangerous places where obedience means that we will be thrown into a lion’s den but isn’t it tempting God to take a short cut to the market through the lion’s den?

  2. Glenn Runnalls

    and then there’s always this:


  3. Thanks for this,Glenn. This weekend I heard someone say “the best safety device is relationship”. I believe this. Since Jim was mugged, I have wondered outloud if we should move back to that block in which the mugging happened. Since there was a time that Jim walked that block every day at least twice a day.

    I have chosen to live in a neighborhood that claim to fame to marks on the police report. However, I wonder if other neighborhoods have their dangerous attitudes more hidden, is that really more safe?

  4. If you are where God wants you to be ….. then fear not! Follow peace …. the peace of the Holy Spirit.

    I face danger everyday and my ministry is in the Motorcycle world of Bikers. As a woman in a male dominated sector of society I have gained their respect by not being scared.I am well aware of the dangers that are present.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s