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Guest Muser - A Midweek Musing on Isaac and Ishmael by Sydney Gunter

My daughter recently sent me this unsolicited, and I thought it was too good not to share. I hope it makes you think deeply like it made me. May we continue to seek peace and serve others with compassion.

I hope you all are well.

Grace and Peace,


Midweek Musing on Isaac and Ishmael - Sydney Gunter

I recently watched The West Wing episode “Isaac and Ishmael.” My sister Brittany wanted to watch it to make sure she understood some of the basics about what is happening currently in the world. I certainly didn’t oppose it, as The West Wing is one of my favorite television shows.

The episode was originally written and filmed two weeks after the 9/11 attack and then aired in October 2001. It was meant to explain the basics of terrorist organizations and how difficult it is to be an Arab-looking person, whether actually Muslim or from another country, in the United States. The episode focuses on the White House having a crash due to a person who has the same name as a known terrorist working in the building and having to determine if this person is a threat. (A crash is when the White House is sealed by the Secret Service, movement among those inside is limited, and no one is allowed in or out of the building due to a possible security breach.)

While the crash is taking place, a group of honor high school students who were coming to tour and talk to Josh Lyman (who was the Deputy Chief of Staff) get the privilege to raise important questions about terrorist organizations and how Islamic Extremism came to be.

While I don’t remember 9/11 and watched this episode many, many years after it happened, it is a powerful and insightful episode that still shines a lot of light into what we face today, even 21 years later.

The current conflict in Israel, while entirely different from 9/11, stems from the same basic conflict that has spanned centuries. Muslim versus Jewish. Superiority. Power. Winner versus Loser. The conflict of wanting to be the best leads to hatred to an extreme level; much of what we are seeing plays out with the conflict in Israel. The globalization of our world leads to nations and people taking sides. The media plays into this because divisiveness feeds their ratings. We see it not just in this international crisis but in everyday life as the media feeds off dividing people into categories as it is always Republican versus Democrat or Black versus White or Straight versus Gay. While categories are not a bad thing, as having an individual identity is important, it becomes an issue when it is being used to pin one another against each other, which is does more often than not.

Today, one of the hot topic questions that categorize someone is: Are you pro-Israel or pro-Palestine? This seemingly simple question made up of 5 words has a lot of baggage. This “or” question leads to division. Division causes missing the bigger picture due to focusing on arguing why your opinion is the correct one to have. Thus, division leads to hate. Hate leads to hurt and pain. Pain and hurt leads to suffering. And God is clear that no one deserves to suffer.

The world being so focused on what divides us allows one to forget that there are people who are living in fear that their lives will be taken from them in the blink of an eye. There are people who have just lost everything overnight. People have lost not only their homes and jobs but loved ones. We should be less focused on Israel versus Hamas or Israel versus Palestine and be more focused on the people who are within those borders of the conflict. We should be more focused on how we can support humanitarian aid efforts and saving civilian lives instead of picking sides and deciding who is worthy of power and who isn’t. Everyone should be worthy of living without fear of dying due to a war they didn’t cause or ask for. No one deserves to suffer.

God tells us that not only is the Lord compassionate to us but that we should be compassionate to one another. Divisiveness is the opposite of compassion, and yet that seems to be what the world focuses on. Why is that when God clearly tells us that is not what is expected?

Yes, what Hamas is doing in Gaza and Israel is terrible. Yes, highlighting the oppression and injustice of the conflict is important. However, I think we lose a major part of this when we focus on the headlines we see in the media and when we allow the division to rule our thoughts. I think we forget that there are humans, a part of this world, who have just lost everything. Israeli and Palestinian, Muslim and Jewish, and yes, Christian, in addition to so many others.

I think we get so caught up in supporting one against another that we lose the importance of showing compassion to everyone.

God didn’t say that we should show compassion to those we feel are worthy or agree with us. God said to show compassion to everyone. A good reminder of this is Colossians 3:12.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

I hope you can think of this verse in times when you need the reminder to show compassion when division is trying to rule your heart. I know I will.

Sydney Gunter

Member - LaFayette Presbyterian Church


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