Our world is filled with fearful people. There are some things which we need to fear, and many things which are concocted fears, but both kinds cause us great distress. Some real fears have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic that began for us in March of 2020. Concocted fears of immigrants, Muslims and Blacks became presidential campaign issues already in 2016.

Pastor Ronald Koch

We have been living with those fears for six years. Deep State and QAnon conspiracy theories suggest that there is a giant, covert plot to replace the white people with those whom they should fear. From this, we get a willingness to believe the next big lie and to follow the leaders who promise simple solutions: The election was stolen, baby formula is being hoarded for immigrants from Central America. The list goes on.

In seeking simplistic solutions for a very complex world situation, those who are willing to follow populist leaders are seeking peace. They want assurance that they will be safe and have decent jobs.

We in the faith communities of South County believe that there is another kind of peace that we profess comes through our various faith expressions. In her book, The History of God, author Karen Armstrong examines the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

While not as inclusive as our very wide reach in our Interfaith Community, the author boils down the essence of these three faith expressions into two points: these faith expressions seek justice for society and compassion for those who are oppressed. 

Justice and Compassion. I believe these two points are vital and important for the faith expressions in our South County area.

When we stand for justice, we assume that justice makes for a better community and benefits all of us. When we stand for compassion for all who are oppressed, the same holds true. When I think of my involvement in the Interfaith Community, I hold onto these two concepts and find that our work together boils down to Justice and Compassion.

Peace means more than me or any group getting our way; it means trusting that God has created a world in which there is enough for all. Our task is to learn how to share our resources in a just manner rather than hoarding and fighting over God’s generosity. Peace means we work for compassionate care for those who have missed out on God’s goodness and generosity.

While this work is very hard, it is worth pursuing because it gives meaning to our lives and aligns our thinking and actions with a compassionate and justice seeking God.

Ronald E. Koch is Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gilroy. He is a founding member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County. Pastor Koch can be reached at  [email protected]

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