How do you talk about joy in times like these and not sound like a traveling salesman with a bottle of snake oil up his sleeve?
Recently, I received word that Robert Gittelson, the cofounder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, had died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Over the next seven days, the prolific 63-year-old comedian and actor, Robin Williams, committed suicide, and revered screen legend, Lauren Bacall, passed away at the age of 89.
Track back a few weeks, reports of three separate senseless deaths of black men at the hands of police officers rocked the nation:
1. Eric Garner, 43, was selling untaxed cigarettes on a street in Staten Island when two police officers approached him and attempted to arrest him. Mr. Garner put his hands up, but Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner, an asthmatic, in a chokehold—which the NYPD has banned—and wrestled him to the ground. He continued to apply the chokehold even after Garner warned that he couldn’t breathe multiple times. Garner died.
2. John Crawford, 22, was in an Ohio Walmart speaking on a cell phone with the mother of his children while holding a toy rifle that he’d picked up from a nearby shelf. A shopper got concerned and called the police. According to reports, police demanded that he drop the weapon. Crawford allegedly said, “It’s not real.” They shot him. He screamed and cried, according to the woman on the cell phone. Then he died.
3. Michael Brown, 18, was a few days from entering his freshman year in college when he was gunned down by a police officer while walking home from a convenience store. Eyewitnesses and police have offered disputing accounts.
Over the same period, the nation was glued to news of missionary doctors entering the United States to receive treatment for the Ebola virus. Then, this week, the U.S. manufacturer of the experimental Ebola antibody said they had run out of the drug.
CNN aired dramatic footage from one of its reporters embedded on an Iraqi military helicopter mission that dropped boxes of food and water and rescued desperate Yazidi Iraqis hiding on a mountaintop to flee persecution by the Sunni militant group, ISIS.
Oh, did I mention that House Republicans voted to sue President Obama for not enforcing part of the Affordable Care Act that they tried to prevent earlier? Meanwhile, the president announced plans for executive action on immigration reform despite the most inactive Congress in modern American history.
So … to think of joy right now, reminds me of snake oil.
When we planned to focus this issue of Faith in Action on the spiritual discipline of joy we had no idea how challenging that call would be.