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Be Alert. Vigilance Is Needed.


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Be Alert. Vigilance Is Needed.


Commentary by Paul Graves | FāVS News


“Vigil” is a frequently used word these days. On Nov. 13, a vigil was held at the University of Idaho to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the horrific murders of four U of I students in their Moscow apartment. Friends and family gathered in Moscow (and other Idaho colleges) to continue the grieving for lost friends and healing of aching hearts.

Vigils are being held regionally and all over the world to protest the horrific war in Israel. Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian advocates are demanding their people’s plights be heard. The general moral quicksand of war is being transformed every day through the power of vigils.

How can I talk about vigils in some helpful way? Maybe a 70s-era greeting card offers a bit of comic perspective: “Be Alert. The world needs more lerts.”

Be Vigilant

The call to be alert is a call we need to listen for every day. We are called to be vigilant. How about “pay attention”? Stay awake, keep watch, open your eyes and your ears. However we say it, life calls us to not fall asleep on matters of great importance.

It is well past time that we dilute the power of distortion and disinformation with a stronger power. It’s the power to be a “lert,” a person who pays attention, who listens, who keeps watch, who opens ears and ears to be aware of what is happening. To know what can happen when we stop paying attention.

Vigilance is a spiritual virtue in every major world religion: Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Bahai, Christianity and many others.

The Example of Jesus

It lives in the ministry of Jesus, for sure. He calls his followers to have eyes that see and ears that hear (Mark 8:18). He calls his followers to “keep watch” (Matt. 26:41). Stay awake, folks, and act on your alertness.

In December 2019, Congressman John Lewis said this about the impeachment of Donald Trump: “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something.”

The trick may be to actually see something that isn’t right, just or fair. We fool ourselves too easily into seeing past those things. So being vigilant means to look in the just and fair direction, to clarify what is consistent with our personal and social values.

Seeing the Dangers

I’ve been reminded of vigilance’s importance by Steven Harper, a retired seminary professor who writes insightfully about vigilance in his blog Oboedire. Like Dr. Harper, I’m very concerned about the dangers to democracy in our country.

Many choose to see these dangers. Many choose to not see these dangers. Yes, there’s more to being a “lert” than wide-open eyes and ears. Open minds and hearts are also needed.

Today’s danger? I see political leaders and ordinary citizens believe their versions of Christian nationalism should be the “law of the land.” I see those same people wanting to restrict voting rights, reproductive rights and social rights. Authoritarian speech has incited violent actions.

A Spiritual Issue

How can we stay vigilant and actively engaged? Vigilance must begin inside our spirits. Courageous self-examination of our motives, but also of our deeper strengths, is called for.

Being vigilant requires much of us. Like humility to admit when we might be wrong about certain things. Like being willing to act on wisdom attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”

Vigilance transforms persons and society through acts of compassion and nonviolence. It’s an attitude and action of light and hope. Light subverts the darkness. Hope subverts cruelty and hopelessness.

So become a “lert.” Consider what it means to be vigilant.



The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.


Paul Graves
Paul Graves
Paul Graves is a retired and re-focused United Methodist pastor and a long-time resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he formerly served on city council and mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he's been the Lead Geezer-in-Training of Elder Advocates, a consulting and teaching ministry on aging issues. Since 1992, Graves has been a volunteer chaplain for Bonner Community Hospice. His columns regularly appear in The Spokesman-Review's Faith and Values section, and he also writes the Dear Geezer column for the Bonner County Daily Bee and is the host of the bi-weekly Geezer Forum on aging issues in Sandpoint.

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Walter Hesford
5 months ago

Thanks, Paul, for this call to be a-lert- Reminds me of Thoreau’s assetion that the central message of the gospels was to be awake. But I’m also reminded that when Black theologians (among others), urge us to be woke,they are seen as unAmercan heritics.

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