September 11, 2020
I am just old enough to know what it’s like to have some pride in what our country has achieved, and young enough to see our varied shortcomings. It seems like those who are younger than I only see the shortcomings and injustices that we currently face, and have little understanding of the progress that we, as a nation, have made. Their life experience, and so their world view, is skewed towards an attitude of entitlement — and they do not even realize it. This lack of an appreciation of history results in their being ignorant of the sacrifices and risks their predecessors took to give them the freedom to be ungrateful.
We live in a polarized society. Good vs bad. Right vs wrong. Black vs white. Republican vs democrat. Male vs female. Christian vs ??? (everyone else). Basically, it boils down to “us” and “them.” This polarized extremist view of the world leads quickly to thoughtless judgments fueled by fear and hate. We define ourselves in many ways by what, or who, we are not.
In a polarized society the desire to position yourself as “right” or “good”, is attempted by contrasting yourself against those whom you consider your opposite, defining them as “wrong” or “bad”.
Are you tall or short, fat or thin? We define ourselves and relate to the world in perceived contrasts. Adopting an acceptable norm as good necessitates the creation of an evil that is outside of our experience. If we desire to consider ourselves “better” than those around us, we can through contrast, declare ourselves good or “better” by identifying someone we consider “less-than.” We effectively lower the bar of purity to a level that is digestible and palpable. Righteousness becomes a contest rigged by our presuppositions and world view.
“Bad” becomes the nomenclature for those with whom we disagree. They may not technically be evil, as compared to some, but they are bad in comparison to us. Hence, they become our devils, in order for us to be lifted up as angels. The hellfire we imagine for them creates a hot updraft. We need their suffering to generate enough wind beneath our wings to elevate us over what we assume is their lowly or doomed state.
This of course is not a “Christian” way of thinking.
The standard ought to be between us and God. The knowledge that we are never “godly” enough for God should be the only comparison by which we live. Any bar lower than that gives us the excuse to settle, and worse, TO JUDGE.
Jesus came so that we might have abundant life, and it is that idea of what an abundant life might look like, that has kept me secure in my place in the universe. That is; a sinner saved only by grace. My comparison should be only to myself and what I can potentially be. Rejoicing in what I have accomplished but understanding the concept that all I do is far less than perfect. Paul, went so far as to call his righteous deeds, “filthy rags” when compared to the grace of God. If I called my “good” acts, filthy, and actually gave voice to that, I think others would take issue since by comparison I have been viewed by some as better than most. So, if I being good, are seen as evil in comparison to God, where does that leave those who consider me better than them? Can you see how this entire train of thought increases in speed towards an inevitable cliff?
How do we really know what is good and bad? How do we really know what is racist or just? How can we really know the motives behind an action, or determine the guilt of a fellow traveler from a 120-character tweet?
We know just enough to be dangerous. Most of our judgements are based on absorbing just enough information to align the facts with our worldview. Our worldview needs only a gentle push to ignite righteous indignation. We don’t need real facts or context, or a history lesson to protest a personally ratified injustice. If the content upholds our pre-conceived worldview, it usually only takes a bumper sticker to elicit rage.
I am old enough to know that thoughtful discourse, determined to discover truth, is a rare thing. Truth takes work, patience, and the ability to admit you may be, at the best, misinformed or, at the worse, entirely wrong. Truth demands you be okay with being wrong. That is why we are saved by grace, and not through any merit on our part. There is remarkable freedom in being okay with being wrong, to realize your shortcomings, and to understand your own innate sin.
No matter what cause you find yourself engaged in, or what vendetta you may be pursuing, realize that you are quite probably wrong on most counts. And that’s okay.
My prayer is that those who are entitled will begin to understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by those who have entitled them. I pray that those who protest will be willing to put in the effort to understand what they protest about and take a moment to realize that there is a rich history of suffering and compromise that needs to be understood, and respected.
Side bar: The transgender community, especially for those who have taken a stand to own their Godly inheritance, is by far the most oppressed community in the United States. Even so, there has been progress in the past 10 years that has attempted to create an environment that is more conducive to social change. Hopefully some day we will no longer be the go-to contrast for those who wish to be shown as better. We are all blessed children of God. There is no comparison needed.