Chariots of Fire

Jessica Moss is a Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate University

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

2 Kings 6:15-17

The few times that I have heard the story of Elisha and his servant, found in 2 Kings 6, the servant is likened unto us – the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or to Christians in general.  The narrative is often as follows: we are a small and oppressed group that is being persecuted by the big bad world, out there. I understand the draw of this position. It helps us build solidarity, it motivates faith in the divine, but it also sets us up as innocent.  We are not always innocent.

The servant feared for his life. Do we fear for ours? I am not speaking metaphorically or spiritually. I am speaking of a legitimate fear for our lives and the lives of our children. When we wake in the morning, do we fear for our physical safety at school or at work or at our houses of worship, or the safety of our loved ones? 

As a white Christian, I originally wrote these questions in the aftermath of multiple terrorist attacks against Muslims, hate crimes against Asian Americans, and the killing of our Black and Brown neighbors that had finally been brought to our collective conscious. But in the last few weeks, a new level of fear is palpable in the United States. Whether going to a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in New York, a Taiwanese Church in California, or an Elementary school in an immigrant community in Texas, many of us are waking up with a fear for our physical safety.

When Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be open what he saw was a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire, he saw spiritual protection that did not miraculously translate to physical protection, but we assume brought some sense of calm. We are told to relate ourselves to the servant and are encouraged to see those chariots of fire as filled with our ancestors, and with the prayers of our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and church leaders.  We are asked to have faith that all the support and protection we need is available to us, even if we don’t see it. All while reminding us that we are in fact the ones that need this support and protection.

Over the past several years, since I have been aware enough to realize systemic issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and islamophobia, I have been constantly faced with the reality that my fear is not of an army, or the police, or a white supremacist coming for me or my children.  I am grateful for the image of horses and chariots on guard to protect me, but I don’t always need it. I don’t fear the way Elisha’s servant feared. I don’t fear for my children the way others fear for theirs, though I do believe this last month has increased our collective fear.  

It is difficult to categorize the experiences of going to vigils and rallies and marches and memorial services after atrocities, after another child of God has been murdered by a representative of the state, or entire communities are attacked by white supremacists. I don’t know what to do other than show up. And in these moments, I wish more people from my community – more white heterosexual cis-gender Christians were with me. I believe that there are more that be with us – on the side of justice and equity and reparations – than be with them – on the side of white and Christian supremacy, exploitation, and violence. But I fear that we spend so much time thinking that we are the ones being ideologically or spiritually attacked that we ignore the real physical and temporal pain that those around us are experiencing right now, every day. We spend so much time thinking we are the servants that need to see the chariots, we don’t consider that for some, we might actually look like the army that is attacking. In our innocence and our complacency, we might be allowing armies to surround God’s other children.  We might be a part of the system that is causing others to fear for their lives.

What would happen to our world, if we stopped thinking of ourselves as innocent bystanders and considered that we might be the ones God expects to stand on the mountain and be in the chariots. Not to offer ‘thoughts and prayers’ but to be a physical presence. To literally be with them who are scared and suffering, not as saviors or prophets, not as self-appointed protectors but as physical barriers between those who are attacking and those being attacked. To be on guard and ready to do what is required, to be of service, to be a light in this dark world.

What is required? We must show up. We must reach out. We must vote. We must ask those communities who are in pain, what they need. We cannot be silent. 

Comments

  1. Jeff Stewart says:

    Love it. It’s what the Savior would have us do.

  2. Absolutley! Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. James 4:17

  3. larryco_ says:

    “many of us are waking up with a fear for our physical safety.” But, who should we fear? The following statistic concerning the “threat” posed by Islamic terrorists is telling:

    .Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, In his most recent report tracking Islamist militancy in America, included this startling figure. “Since 9/11, Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 37 lives in the United States, out of more than 190,000 murders during this period.” (2016)

  4. Old woman says:

    @larryco I am not sure where you are leading with your statistic. Are you saying that there really is no need for stricter gun control? That we shouldn’t “reach out, “show up” , etc. as the author of the post asks? Death of children by car accidents in America probably supersedes death of children by gun violence, yet does that devalue what happened in Uvalde? Over the years car makers have continued to work to make cars safer beginning with seat belts. The car industry is heavily regulated. Shouldn’t the use of guns be heavily regulated in spite of statistics? I live in California. There is a ten day waiting period before a gun purchaser can obtain their gun. It would have made a huge difference in Uvalde if there had been a waiting period. Those children would have been out of school by then and alive. I think we should channel our fears into making a safer society. Fear has it’s uses. Yes, I agree with the op. Let’s show up, reach out, vote, help.

  5. larryco_ says:

    Old woman: how in the world did you get a call for no gun control from my sharing the stat that the US had 190,000 murders between 2001 to 2016? Wow. The Trump administration focused on the threat to the US coming from outside in the form of Muslim extremism, which is blatantly false.
    If you are a citizen of the US you are 23 times more likely to be murdered than if you lived in Australia or the European Union countries. My comment was written in support of this article and to point out that we have to examine our own cultural malignancy and stop looking for outside scapegoats. I am constantly physically and mentally sick when I think of our violent culture, and I have never had a comment that I have written more misunderstood. I need to stop commenting.

  6. Old woman says:

    @larryco. I apologize. Glad to know we are on the same page. Keep commenting.

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