Janet R Stafford

Again.

 

And yet again we hear of another terrorist attack. This time it’s Nice, France. And once more we hear the litany of how it was carried out, how many were hurt and how badly, followed by hours of anxiety-making speculation by “news” networks that actually present infotainment, followed public outrage, grief, and depression, and concluded with indignant, windy speeches by political “big bugs” (as Eli would call them) ranting for revenge or pleading for peace.

 

We feel as if the average person can’t make a dent in all this. We feel as if we’re all held captive and forced to watch as it repeats again and again and again like some demented video loop.

 

When I started writing SAINT MAGGIE in 1999, my concern had been to tell a story about a minister whose scandal rocked a little town. When I put the book away in 2002, six months or so earlier our nation had experienced terrorist attacks on the Trade Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Another possible attack had been thwarted by an uprising by passengers on the last airplane. I remember being fascinated by the desire on many peoples’ part for vengeance and connected that with the thirst for vengeance in Blaineton. What was happening in that fictional little New Jersey town had nearly the same dynamic, only writ small. I found myself writing about how the people of Blaineton reacted to the frightening event that had happened in their midst and how they dealt with their sense of having been betrayed.

 

It is probably because of the world we live in now that I continue use the series to look at how people respond to stresses like murder, war, hatred, anger, and fear. I keep asking myself how in the midst of the Civil War, could the peace-loving people in Maggie’s family keep their sanity let alone make any kind of impact on their society? How could they overcome the racial divide? Do they overcome it? Or do they do something else? How do they face “the enemy”? Who is their neighbor? What do they do when they are confronted with people who are different or when they are confronted with oppression?

 

Now, I don’t think for one moment that my books will bring about world peace. I simply pray they will bring hope to readers in the midst of a world that seems to be blowing up all around us, just as the world in which Maggie and her family live certainly seemed to be blowing up for them. The power of Civil War weaponry could destroy life and property on a massive scale previously unknown. It certainly would have caused anxiety, particularly for those in the path of the armies, for the soldiers who fought, and for those sensitive souls reading reports of the battles. Thus to me there are parallels between Maggie’s world and ours. We live in a world where a small group of people have the power to kill and destroy unexpectedly and do so anywhere. We live in a world where people are intent on separating into angry, hate-filled camps and do not or will not attempt to listen and to speak in anything more than insult-filled shouts. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say we feel powerless.

 

Thus it is no accident that I have worked four main themes into the Saint Maggie series: the need for hope, the power of love, the desire for unity (or what one of my seminary professors called The Good Community), and the search for God. These four seem to under-gird every story.

 

So for what it’s worth let me give you some words to hang on to as we all surf this latest tsunami of terror, anger, and grief.

1. Do not let evil forces divide you from others. We’re stronger and better together. Keep searching for the Good Community.

2. Be hopeful. Do not succumb to despair.

3. Look for something bigger than yourself. You can call it God, you can call it Allah, you can call it Yahweh, your Inner Light, your better self, the universe… you can call it Fred for all I care. Just look for something bigger than yourself.

4. Finally, love. Just love. Love your family. Love others. Love the world around you. Keep loving. Don’t stop.

 

 

Peace.

 

 

Janet

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