Keep Calm and Reboot
The Christian disciplines of self-suspicion, forgiveness, and hope all function well. We need to restart our faith in them.
Minneapolis endured two nights of curfew last month due to unrest that erupted after a false report of another black man shot by police. The mayor acted fast to stem the turbulence, not wanting a repeat of the awfulness that happened with George Floyd’s killing and its aftermath. Huddled in my home fairly far from downtown Minneapolis, I prayed for others—in Kenosha and Portland and elsewhere. Nineteen years since 9/11, a nation united has fractured. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The chasmic political and economic divides in America, driven deeper by a relentless pandemic, seem hopelessly unbridgeable. Our culture and political systems—fueled by the merciless thrill of social media and conspiracy crazies—thrive in the zero-sum game. Only now the online vitriol has spilled onto the streets. Reactions vacillate between the call for police to restore order and worry against police overreach.
The hallmark of free speech and rightful assembly in America relies upon civic order. Civic order relies on a commitment to common good. Theologically, the common good ties to our commitment to all persons made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and to the common grace generously and indiscriminately bestowed by God upon the righteous and unrighteous alike (Matt. 5:45).
To the extent the common good untethers from common grace—a doctrine based on God’s undeserved love for all people—goodness perverts into partisanship and subjects to societal whim, market value, individual rights, and personal preference. Once we feel we deserve what we get or are owed what we lack, common goodness turns tribal. We fight to preserve what we’re jealous for and fight against what we envy.