I struggle with darkness. Not on a personal level. I’m blessed with a lack of depression, a happy disposition, and a fortunate life. It’s my view of the world that clouds my hope.
Clearly, there is no arc of history that bends towards justice. And while it may not be theologically justifiable, I believe there is a struggle between good and evil going on in the world, and evil usually wins.
Strangely, that thought actually makes me feel better – to think we don’t live in an exceptionally bad time, that it’s always been this way.
Indeed, it used to comfort me to remind myself that things have been worse. It’s not the ‘30s after all, I told myself.
But it is.
Here begins the litany. Under George W. Bush, our country committed war crimes, and people weren’t outraged. In fact, they enjoyed it – from Abu Graib to “24,” people enjoyed participating in and imagining torture.
President Obama refused to hold anyone responsible for those crimes against humanity, and he has continued, not torture, but many of the same policies as his predecessor. And we just honored Dick Cheney.
But it’s not just Iraq. It’s also Chicago et. al. The racist evils of our criminal justice system are being exposed more and more every day – realities that my white privilege previously shielded me from.
I didn’t know what has been going on – continually since Jim Crow, not again, nothing new. But now, thanks to video, we all see a constant stream of examples of what African-Americans and others have been living with daily.
Do I need to insert right now that not all cops are bad? Do I need to explain that #BlackLivesMatters does not mean other lives don’t matter, but rather speaks to a system that treats Black lives in particular as if they don’t matter?
We see the assaults and murders committed by (some) police officers everyday on video, yet they still get acquitted. And most white people seem to be fine with that. In a recent survey 61% of whites still have “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police.”
At first I found it disturbing that so many people seem to believe that anything other than complete, groveling submission before police power is legitimate grounds for severe injury or even death
But now we see that even submission to police orders is no protection from a broken jaw or worse.
Killings happen not just because officers fear for their lives. They also happen just because.
And people don’t care. They will side with the cops no matter what. Indeed, in a recent survey, over 60% of Americans were revealed to be authoritarian or highly authoritarian, which means they hold rigid, punitive attitudes and side with the aggressor.
We are still the same people who loved a lynching, made a festival out of it even.
In addition, besides the violence, our entire criminal justice system is skewed to disadvantage poor people, even blatantly exploit them, with no regard for lives ruined.
In the face of all this profound injustice, large portions of the white working class have finally risen up – in support of Donald Trump! And calling him fascist is not hyperbolic. “Trump! Trump! Trump!” shouts the mob. Let’s rough up the black guy, deport the Hispanics, and attack the Muslims. That will make us great again. “USA! USA! USA!”
I’m angry. I’m heartsick. I’m worried.
This world really is a vale of tears, a Hegelian slaughter-bench.
Here again, hope arises for me when I realize that it’s always been this bad. As Father Max Wolf recently put it,
“This is the very kind of world that Christ was born into two-thousand years ago. Knowing the horrors (and the joys!) that abound because of freedom in Creation, God joined us in our humanity, being born of the Blessed Mary in the midst of slavery, oppression and religious and cultural wars. Jesus Christ came to show us another way to live – a more excellent way – and to reveal and embody God’s unconditional love and mercy. Obviously we still struggle – individually and collectively – to follow in that way of love and peace and joy.” (Emphases added)
Obviously, we still struggle. We have always struggled.
God came down to Earth to live with us, and we killed Him! And I have no doubt we’d kill Him again.
But here’s the Good News: We couldn’t kill God. It’s not in our power. He’s still here. He’s everywhere. We live in Him, when we “walk in love.”
And what He came to teach us remains valid. He came to teach us another way of living, to love one another, to renounce violence, to treat others the way we want to be treated, to pray for our enemies.
I find Christianity to be a hard religion. Loving your enemies is hard – particularly in politics where you acquire a lot of them quickly and you see sides of people that are often hidden from view. Accepting that God loves each and every one of us just as we are is hard. Seeing the face of God in every human being is hard. Treating others the way you want to be treated, not how they treat you, is hard. Not seeking vengeance is hard.
Right after saving a woman from being stoned to death for adultery — a terribly destructive sin — Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
I want the light of life. I need the light of life. And during this Advent season, as practicing Christians prepare to see the Light, it is keeping hope alive for me during dark times.
The Light is there in the darkness. I just need eyes to see it.