Balancing Acts – Keep Calm and Carry On

by Tom Beuteltom b

“And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”

(2 Thessalonians 3:13)

As Britain prepared for World War II, the government sought to motivate the nation and bolster morale with posters bearing a simple message, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” According to Wikipedia, the posters were not widely distributed or displayed; nevertheless, the message was apt and is, perhaps, apt today.

I can remember people kidding about “catching up” on missed episodes of daily soap operas. You didn’t really need to “catch up” because the stories seemed to be an endless repetition of themes and behaviors that were much the same from day to day.

Unfortunately, the same could be said about daily news broadcasts. Each day we watch in horror as emigrants fleeing war, poverty, and oppression are hungry, mistreated, or die in their attempt to find safety and a better life. Each day we watch in horror as barrel bombs and drones wreak havoc, destroying cities and killing innocent civilians, or as bodies – dead or almost dead – are dug from rubble.

And, of course, the same could be said about shootings in the US – shootings of suspects, of police, of school children, shoppers and others. CNN reported in June that nearly one-third of the mass shootings in the world from 1966 to 2012 occurred in the US. “While the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, it had 31% of all public mass shootings.” (

Constant exposure to events like these takes its toll, to say nothing of the trauma, loss, and harm to those directly effected. We often tend to react emotionally by getting angry or fearful, or we become dulled to the reality of the events and are inclined to shrug them off. We feel that there is nothing to be done, at least nothing that we can do.

But then the encouraging words, “Keep calm and carry on” come to mind. This somewhat trite, seemingly over-simplistic motto actually speaks directly to our inclinations. Anger will not solve the problems – keep calm. Anger and name-calling often lead to violence and most certainly to broken relationships – keep calm. Fear for our own safety, of the violence of others, of the stranger changing our lives and lifestyles does not remove the threat that fuels emigration or kills indiscriminately – keep calm.

Becoming inured to violence, poverty, suffering, and death does not help those fleeing violence, or caught in poverty, or the families of those who have died – carry on. Throwing  up our hands and saying, “What can I do?” does not provide comfort or relief to victims or redemption of those who act in harmful and evil ways – carry on.

In Galatians 6:9 the apostle Paul writes, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” And again, in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, “do not be weary in doing what is right.” Carry on!

So, what can we do? We can do what we always do to share the gospel and to make peace. Here are some concrete ways we can “do something” about the crisis in Syria.

  • It is neither trite nor simplistic to pray to God for wisdom to know what we can do, for relief and comfort for those who are suffering, for courage to act, for the enlightenment and redemption of the “enemies” who cause suffering.
  • Write letters, make phone calls, encourage leaders and others who have the opportunity to intervene in events to do so in ways that make a difference. For example, OxFam America is calling Americans to contact President Obama and Secretary Kerry to protect Syrian civilians. Click here to add your name:

  • Refugees are in dire need of food, water, and shelter. Donate above and beyond your normal giving to help. Some possible place to give. You may have others in mind.

OxFam America:

Mennonite Central Committee:

World Vision:

Tom Beutel is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio.Balancing Acts is a regular monthly feature on PeaceSigns.


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