Know Your Protective Places In Your Times of Vulnerability

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 5 June 2016.
By John Abbate.

For centuries, people have prayed for protection—for themselves, for their loved ones, for their soldiers, for their community. “In a world of unpredictable hazards, it is a highly caring and rational thing to do […] that we express our caring via the words of a prayer. It unites us with that goodness…that somehow can make us better humans.”

Protection, and its wide concerns, have long been tangled in the roots of our religion. Many people feel that religion has failed them, and they give up on it. But Dr Macnab wants us to “lift ourselves out of that negative religion…into the stream of what a good religion ought to be about.”

We have a choice: a prayer of protection, or a prayer of destruction. Or, there is a third possibility: “to step over that dichotomy and pray the prayer that will make us better human beings:

“God help us to be better human beings,

And protect us from all that is dreadful.”

“Protection and prevention are close sisters,” said Dr Macnab. “Our health and emotional wellbeing depend on a wide learning.”

Protection involves more than building walls. We need protection as much from ourselves and our own minds, as we do from external threats, other people and the fortunes of a chaotic world. Importantly, protection involves developing those interests and skills of the self, of alertness, self-control, and the protective personality strengths that bolster resilience and vitality. For the reality is that there are times when no protection is enough.

“Everyone needs to be aware of their protective strengths; to believe in their capacity to invoke those strengths…to practise and learn how to convert our words of hope into tangible behaviour. […] We need protection that involves developing a spread of interests, activities and enjoyments outside the immediate context.”

On Religion and Protection

Dr Macnab offers several perspectives, from a good religion, on protection and coping with the hazards of life:

  1. The reality is that loss of protection will occur; the protections we put in place can, and will, occasionally fail
  2. Religion does not promise immunity; it directs us to the ways of coping
  3. Human beings will continue in conflict, but our religion can encourage us to convert our hope into practical tasks to lift ourselves out of conflict, pointing us to the “goal of universal reduction of anxiety, and towards progressive, rational protection.”
  4. Religion teaches us to pray “that we will all be united with that goodness, in the here and now, that makes us better humans.”


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