For most of today, while my son was at school, I worked on writing this “Part 3” of my thoughts related to the Charlottesville tragedy last week. But then, after watching the news tonight, I decided I wasn’t going to use anything I had written. Here’s why.
We Don’t Want Healing
It occurred to me that since last weekend, after the initial outcry and concern over race relations in this country, the focus in the news cycle and on social media has been on everything but how to heal the racial divisions.
Rather, it has mostly been name-calling, pointing fingers, and snarky remarks. How quickly the focus has changed from mourning the tragedy to people calling each other “Nazi-sympathizers” and “Leftist extremists,” and arguing over statues and monuments—not making an argument as to what to do, mind you, but just arguing.
Trump says, “there were good people” at the Neo-Nazi rally—I’m sorry, but allow me to vent here: what kind of idiot president thinks, “Yeah, that statement will unite the country at a time like this!”? Who thinks that’s a good thing to say? Well, apparently Jerry Falwell Jr. does.
Trump says he doesn’t want Confederate statues taken down because, “Where will it end? Will we be demanding to take down memorials to Washington and Jefferson?” Everyone accuses him of over-reacting, because that’s just crazy…and then the next day, after an unruly mob just tears one down, there is Al Sharpton on a news show, voicing his opposition to the Jefferson memorial—does anyone not think he purposely is trying to rile people up?
Chelsi Clinton tweets about how Confederate statues are like statues of Satan, and a conservative commentator responds with, “Yeah? Well the Democratic party is the most racist party in history!” And on the day of the Barcelona terrorist attack, Wolf Blitzer said it could be a “copy-cat” of Charlottesville. And then, to top it off, a Missouri state senator openly called for Trump’s assassination. What is happening? In all honestly, I’d love to see Trump resign, but can’t we all admit that, no matter how much you might hate him, we really shouldn’t have elected officials calling for assassination.
It occurred to me tonight: our country doesn’t want to heal its divisions. Instead, “we the people” want verbal blood sport. We demand it on our TV screens and we engage in it on social media. And we’d rather do that because ultimately, it is entertaining, hateful, and easy to do.
I was going to try to talk about and tease out some of the complicated dynamics surrounding some of the recent racial episodes in our country the past few years that we should consider and reflect upon if we hope to start healing our divisions.
But the fact is, we don’t hope for that…not really. Call me cynical; accuse me of “both-siderism,” but I doubt either “the Left” or “the Right” really gives a damn about healing our racial divisions or trying to “discern what is good.” It’s much easier to just scream out hateful rhetoric, convince ourselves it is righteous indignation, and then get in one more “F*** you!” before we go to bed.
At least that’s what the talking heads on TV inspire us to do; that’s what the cult of personality firebrands on social media model for us—that’s how they get followers. And we follow them…O how we follow them.
Today’s technology has the ability to bring tragic events across our country and around our world into our homes and onto our phones in the blink of an eye. On one hand, this is a tremendous good, because it forces us to expand our horizons and wrestle with really tough issues. But on the other hand, it gives us the false impression that what we say or do really matters. Something happens, we take to Twitter and Facebook, and think we’ve “really done something about it!” No…we’ve done nothing.
I write on this blog, but in the big scheme of things, are my comments going to change anything? Will anything I do really have any impact on anything?
“Oh, but you can get politically active and vote!” Really? And vote for politicians who will pander to their ever-increasing polarized bases, and give interviews to ever-more partisan media in order to rile up their side so they stay angry enough to get out and keep them in power, so that the enemy in the other party can’t turn our beloved country into either a Nazi-haven or a Marxist dystopia?
No, the healing won’t come from them. And most of what we get from cable news and social media just makes the wounds deeper.
The Only Suggestion I Can Give Right Now
Let me end by hearkening back to my Regent College professor, Gordon Fee, one more time. I remember in one class (possibly the Romans class), he touched upon the topic of racial divisions in America. What he said always has stuck with me: “If you’re in a small town, and there’s a white church over here and a black church over there, and they have nothing to do with each other, then the gospel isn’t working there in that town.”
As unrealistic as it may sound, here’s my suggestion as to how we can maybe begin to heal the racial divisions in our country. If you’re in a predominately white church, reach out to a predominately black church (and vice versa), and resolve to do church together and worship together for a period of time—maybe three months, maybe a year. Have the pastors team teach, not so much on political issues, or even obvious racial issues. Just preach through one of the Gospels, or perhaps a few of Paul’s letters. Invite each other into your homes, give it time…
Step out in faith, reach out to a church that doesn’t look like yours, and see if the gospel is working. I’m starting to think that’s our only hope…the only possible way.
Maybe together, your two congregations will begin to truly discern was the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God really is. Maybe your two congregations will become one, like Jesus and the Father are one.
…or is it easier to tweet about your rage?