As we converse, we need to include complexity and nuance as we aim for understanding. I am not qualifying any forms of evil or injustice but aiming for wisdom. There are two (among many others) critical thinking errors that often emerge as we aim for civil debate in the public square: The first is over-generalization, especially about groups of people. The second false combination, where we assume because a person thinks a certain way about one issue they will align on several others in a particular manner.
People vary greatly and do not always fit in tidy political categories. For example, as someone deeply concerned about protecting the vulnerable from conception to coronation, I want to see better gun control laws, more access to medical care and mental health services, and reform in our educational and economic policies so access, equity, and opportunity improve.
Racism in any form is a moral evil, calling for personal repentance and systemic change. Such transformations require humility and listening by those historically in power. And solutions that actually work will not fit neatly into ideological boxes. With the help of many friends and mentors, I am listening to many voices, most of which are unheard in a world of clickbait and “gotcha.” Business leaders and laborers, parents and clergy, academics and authors, social service workers and local public servants are all helping me grow in wisdom.
As we respond to this moment, one message I am hearing can help. These are not my wisdom or words, but sisters and brothers on the frontlines. Their message to all well-meaning folks: Take time and find out what the people in the communities and neighborhoods desire and need and invite local residents to forge the solutions. Listening to parents and local business owners about education, work, housing, and other issues will yield wisdom.
are inundated with loud voices clamoring for emotional reactions. In
contrast, followers of Jesus are invited to hear the voice of the Good
Shepherd and choose loving obedience. Let’s take time to still our
hearts, listen deeply, and love wisely.
do not live in the best or worst of times…but in the most
instantaneous information moment of history. Our conflicts are not new,
but much more immediate and our responses are often unreflective. We can
shun vulgarity. We can choose intercession for those who disagree. And
we can recognize that power itself is an addiction affecting every part
of the political spectrum.
often sparks revival in persons and communities. Without pretending
about our real pain or excusing transgression, what if we let go of the
rap sheet that we keep against ourselves and others and truly forgive?
And when we bless those who frustrate us most, we are liberated, and a
new future opens to us.
antidote for our epidemic and anger: In the spirit of St. Francis of
Assisi, we can meet every insult with blessing, every denial of truth
with love and truth, arrogance with humility, and intolerance with civil
discourse. And let’s respond to emotionalism and incipient Orwellian
controls with careful thought and affirmation of liberty rooted in
virtue. Systemic issues of class, gender, and race must be exposed…and
overcome with love, relationships, and wisdom. Protest is one
step…and practical, sacrificial action for others moves our vision of
shalom forward. This is more than being nice and it is not passive.
Living in the opposite spirit of our age of insults and vulgarity is a
courageous spiritual posture.
cannot make every cause our own. We can be well-informed on issues, but
each of us must focus on the particular concerns we are equipped
for. What areas of the common good are we called to influence? For some
it is pro-life issues (yes, we must all care about this). For others, it
is education, homelessness, employment, affordable housing, personal
life-change, etc. If we each find our place, our community will
flourish. If you are not sure, begin with where God has you today and
allow your character, competencies, and charisms to bloom where you are
Pause and pray. Reflect and rejoice.
Lament and laugh. Today is a gift, tomorrow is a hope.
Bless many secretly, affirm someone openly.
And remember Kierkegaard: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.”
perspective, and subtlety are lost is our world of instant data,
reaction over reflection, and “narratives” we refuse to abandon or
adjust. The Bible informs us that we are beautiful and broken, have a
divine design and destiny, and are capable of unutterable evil and
supererogatory virtue. Let’s embrace reality with the confidence in the
One who unites eternal truth and human reality – Jesus our Lord.