“I believe in parables,” the author Barbara Kingsolver writes. “I navigate life using stories where I find them, and I hold tight to the ones that tell me new kinds of truth. This story of a bear nursing a child is one to believe in. I believe that the things we dread most can sometimes save us.”
Kingsolver came across that story on the morning that the NATO bombing campaign of Afghanistan began in the fall of 2001. That bombing campaign was a response to the attacks of Sept 11, and in our time terrorists have become the things of dread which wolves and bears symbolize in fairy tales. The NATO campaign promised peace through the destruction of our enemies, peace through victory, peace through violence. And eighteen years later, after much cost in human lives, money and material, and moral authority, peace remains elusive.
It is an old story: divide the world into evil bears and innocent infants, into us and them, into the virtuous and the corrupt. But perhaps in our time, that old story, the story that still frames so much of the way we see the world, is the worst one to pin our hopes on. We need new stories, stories that remind us that we are all part of one human family, we are all children of God, we are all simultaneously corrupt and virtuous, flawed and glorious, sinners and justified. We need stories that speak of peace through justice, peace through compassion and empathy, peace that comes through breaking the stereotypes, peace that comes in ways as unexpected as a bear nursing a human child, peace that comes in places as unexpected as manger and stable.