How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? – Psalm 13:2-3
I ended last night with coverage of the shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. I woke to 12 police officers shot by a sniper in Dallas, Texas.
Can you feel it? The tension in the air? A spark has been struck, I fear, that cannot be contained.
And it’s an election year. Everything is spun, hyper-analyzed, re-calculated, and spun again. Everything is us-versus-them.
Can you hear it? The rattle between my lungs of the small stony lump that passes, these days, for a human heart? I can. It has shrunken and solidified more while I slept.
I can feel my heart hardening, each time my “enemies” advance. I can feel the love draining away and the anger rising. I am tempted to turn away from those I once cared about because we don’t agree. I have no time to spend on the lost sheep with my little flock to attend.
How cavalierly we treat the salvation of souls—including our own.
Here’s what I know for certain about these shootings: Someone took a life. Someone lost a life. Both are terrible and permanent things with serious implications in this world and the next. And the proper response for most of us, who are removed from the situation, is earnest prayer for the souls of those involved and for peace.
The Evil One relishes these divisions in humanity, and fans the flames that rage around us. Instantaneous media coverage and commentary stifles reflection and discernment, prudence and justice. Politispeak and emotionalism obscure the truth, without which there can be no love. We paint our enemies with one brush and hue, and lose sight of them as unique images of God—each one a masterpiece.
Yesterday I ran across a quote from C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity:
[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.
Our way, as Christians, is narrow, between the errors. Our Way is Christ.
Here’s the truth, as simply as I can express it this gray morning. We have good cops and bad cops; racist, noble, and scared cops…and this morning, living and dead cops. We also have young black men who are good men and bad men; racist, noble, and scared men; and yet again, living and dead men. We have well-intentioned activists on both sides who want justice, and rabble-rousers who just want to fight.
The same applies to Muslims and Christians, to immigrants and natural-born citizens, to men and women. How do I know this? Because all of them are human, and so am I. All of these tendencies live in me, and I must choose which to follow.
It is also true that significant differences exist between the wealthy and the poor, Christianity and Islam, rural and urban America, liberals and conservatives—differences that we must acknowledge plainly and address if we hope to find peace in our communities—but none of these differences are discernible in our DNA or our soul. None are who we are.
I am Catholic, so I am at odds with the culture, with many of my friends, and with much of my family. And it’s complicated. I am a Christian, but I am at odds other Christian creeds, not to mention the non-Christian religions of the world. I’m at odds with scientism, but not science. I am at odds with supporters of abortion, same-sex marriage, and many other ideas. Faith and reason set me at odds with all of these things, but none of these persons—at least, not if I’m practicing my faith well.
So we disagree. Big deal; it happens all the time at my house. And we each think we’re right? Well of course. If we thought we were wrong and persisted, we have more serious problems.
But one of us must be wrong? True enough—and likely both of us. But truth and love go hand-in-hand, so what are we worried about? Being proven wrong? That’s pride talking, the root of sin.
Is it possible to disagree and get along? We do it all the time with people we love. And Jesus said to love our neighbor and our enemies as we love our own selves. We have our work cut out for us.
I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. … You will live in the land I gave to your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. – Ezekiel 36-26, 28
We can bring God’s good work to fruition, but we must keep foremost in our minds our common humanity and the dignity of each person as made in the image of God. We must focus our attention on the infinite value of each soul to the Creator, and the boundless desire God has for each of us. Salvation of souls is our goal; repentance and love is our means. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by the concerns of this world—goods, comforts, guns, money—and lose sight of the only things worth loving: God and neighbor. These other things are not bad in themselves, but can they get us to Heaven? Not likely, but they could drag us to Hell.
Love ought to be our first and last response. And God willing, as we learn to love as He has loved us and align our love completely with His eternal Truth, it can become our only response.