I guess my Saturday night post wasn’t clear enough. There are three things about what happened in Charlottesville and since that have me deeply disturbed. The first is that murder is evil, regardless of motivation. Yet so much of the reaction has been pointed at the motivation for the murder rather than the murder itself, as if racism is somehow a greater evil than murder. Racism is wrong, even evil, but greater than murder? Secondly, the American people should not need political leadership, presidential or otherwise, to tell them how to react to evil like this nor to confirm their sense of evil. Finally the fact that we are so focused on motivation and politics robs the victims of their humanity, as if the motive and the politics are more important than the people injured and killed, not to mention those concerned about the injured or mourning the dead. Further when we rob another of their humanity, we give up a bit of our own.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about about how Christianity helps us to overcome our tendency to “me first” everything – that some things are bigger than our personal reactions to them – that we have to get back in touch with the fact that we are not necessarily good people, at least not without effort. Yet, the reaction to the horrific events of yesterday seem all to be about how people feel about the events, how they react, and about their agenda. We need to reverse the tendency, not succumb to it.
People on the left and right that don’t care for Donald Trump have used his tweeted response as opportunity to castigate him. But that is about their dislike for the president, not the events – nor the lives lost. Could the president be a better national leader? Oh yeah, but do we really need the president to tell us this is awful? The left is busy trying to point out that “the right” really are the racist jerks they have always said they were while people on the right are busy saying “not me” to the accusation – and the bodies are not even cold yet. It’s like the cliché rich family that wants the will read before the funeral – nobody actually misses the dead, they just want their slice.
By failing to recognize and acknowledge the plain humanity of those events we are setting aside our own humanity as well. There is a dead person, there are injuries – people in pain, people in loss, people in mourning. Take a minute, just a minute, to feel that. Please, be a person, not a point scoring machine.
If you are not motivated to do that out of your faith or simply your humanity, then be motivated to do that out of this – it is the only way the political divide in this nation is ever going to heal. Start with empathy. I empathize with those that want to criticize the president’s tepid response, but there is a time and a place and I need to set aside my desire to do so just to keep my priorities straight. I empathize with the left’s desire to make political hay because I have the same desire, (different political point, but same desire) but I need to set it aside momentarily so that we understand murder is about more than politics. I could go on listing the points of potential empathy in this situation for a long time, but I think the point is made, we need to connect before we disagree or else that disagreement will become war.
There is much talk, particularly in faith circles, about moral relativism. And yes there are many thinkers on the left that make a case for it. But we need to understand that we of faith succumb to it when we engage in debate in the wake of human tragedy. We make the inherently tragic more or less tragic based on the point we wish to debate – that is relativism in spades. The tragedy is the tragedy – the debate is secondary. Jesus was first our sacrificial Savior – debate was at best a sideline for Him.