How Long Can We Tear at the Fabric of America? Wanted: Reconcilers

Wanted Min of Rec blogI’ve watched the acrimony and violence of this past week with a heavy heart. The Director of the FBI is by most accounts a man of “north star” integrity. Yet when he condemned Hillary Clinton as “extremely careless” in handling classified information without recommending a criminal indictment, he was harshly attacked. Two days later white police shot and killed blacks who seemed suspect. A black shooter in Dallas vented his rage by shooting as many white police officers as he could.

We tend to think that we can rip and tear at the fabric of America, but that our laws and institutions are indestructible. They can take whatever assault we deliver. But nations as well as families rest ultimately on a foundation of trust. A trust based on respect for the dignity of each individual as well as respect for the laws and institutions that protect us.

We look back over this week and wonder if that trust is fraying into an irreparable breach. And we wonder, what responsibility do we bear for being ministers of reconciliation who take seriously the call to care for our culture?

I agree with those who believe that Hillary Clinton lives according to a different standard, as if the rules and laws do not apply to her. But the way many conservatives withdrew to their partisan corners, as Paul Ryan described it so well today, and began to rip Comey saddened me deeply.

Some reasonable people simply disagreed with his call. Others accused him of being bought off. Others of cowardice. Others of self-interest for himself and or his agency. “The system is rigged!” tweeted Trump. What does that even mean? That Comey cares more about protecting Hillary than rendering a decision based on an honest and fair evaluation of the evidence? We found out yesterday that it was the unanimous decision of the FBI investigative team leaders not to file charges. So does that mean the entire FBI is rigged? The entire FBI is committed to protecting Hillary Clinton?

Isn’t that the attitude that drove the Dallas shooter? The system is rigged. We (the black community) have been hit, so we hit back twice as hard. This worldview is literally tearing us apart.

As Christians we are called to be ministers of reconciliation:

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 4:14, 15, 19, 20).

The love of Christ controls us so that rather than tearing our culture down, we work hard to care for our culture. We work against the fragmentation and dehumanizing forces gaining strength. We honor God’s image in each person. We offer the benefit of the doubt, or at least great respect to someone of such sterling reputation as Comey. Even if we disagree.

We pray for justice. We strive to effect justice under the law. We extend true compassion to those, black and white, who are the victims of violence. And we extend patience to the process of bringing the guilty to justice.

At the heart of reconciliation is the contrition of the guilty, the granting of forgiveness by those wronged and the willingness to endure the consequences or make amends for the wrongs we have done. Only then can we hope to rebuild the trust we need to restore unity and peace.

As ministers of reconciliation we try to provide a soil of love and respect and culture care where this reconciliation can flourish—the reconciliation of each individual with a God who loves us and died for us, as well as the reconciliation of individuals with each other and leaders with followers.

We have to reflect on how angry, disrespectful attacks on our institutions and the people who lead them on Tuesday undercuts our moral authority when, on Thursday, we seek to console the bereaved and promote healing and reconciliation in the wake of the racially charged shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas.

Those of us in leadership especially set the tone. We know true contrition when we see it. The nation is waiting for Hillary to respond to the FBI’s conclusion that she lied repeatedly to the American people about how she guarded the classified secrets entrusted to her. No doubt she remembers how her husband was criticized for being far too self-defensive in his first “apology” for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

After he surrounded himself with a circle of pastoral ministers of reconciliation (including, Bill Hybels, Gordon MacDonald and Tony Campolo), then President Clinton delivered a second apology for the Lewinsky affair. He begins by saying that he agrees with those who said that in his first apology he was “not contrite enough.” His one-minute apology is an example to us all:

It was important to him to acknowledge that the sorrow he felt was genuine. And he specifically extended his apology not just to family and friends, but also his cabinet, staff and the American people—everyone to whom he had lied. He went on to say that to be forgiven, more than sorrow is required. He also purposed to show “genuine repentance. And determination to change and repair breaches of my own making.” This is the fruit in his life, in our nation’s life, of the wise counsel of Christians committed to a ministry of reconciliation.

In the wake of this week’s FBI report, this level of sorrow and contrition is what the American people have yet to feel or receive from Hillary. Will she follow her husband’s example? Will she demonstrate a willingness to repair breaches of her own making? To endure whatever consequences may come as a result of her bad judgment? Hopefully she will repent of her self-defense and stonewalling and simply apologize from the heart for lying to the American people.

What about us? How can we respond to Hillary and James Comey with our calling as ministers of reconciliation in full view? Are we as concerned about reconciliation and culture care as we are about justice and culture war? How are we praying for our broken nation? What are we saying on social media? In personal conversations? From our pulpits? How are we stewarding our citizenship as a minister of reconciliation first?

As for the events of yesterday, are we as sorrowful over the loss of black lives as we are of police lives? Do we feel a true sense of contrition over any indifference we’ve felt to the plight of families who have been touched by excessive police violence? Does our commitment to justice diminish our rightful calling as ministers of reconciliation? What do we long for more? My heart broke for the Minnesota girlfriend crying out to Jesus, crying out for prayer.

May the events of this week serve to heighten our sensitivity to the vulnerability of our nation, especially as we head into the conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. And may we recommit ourselves to care for our culture with the love of Christ that stands strong against injustice, but values reconciliation above partisanship and rebuilds the trust we need to flourish.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “How Long Can We Tear at the Fabric of America? Wanted: Reconcilers

  1. I am leading a study of Habakkuk this month of July. These events certainly parallel that folk singer’s experience! We must look, as Habakkuk did, to our Triune God for His perspective. Without Him, all our efforts of reconciliation will be futile.

    • So true, Sara Sue. I love Habakuk. Wish I could join your study. Are you using any materials other than the Bible?

  2. I love your writing dear Lael, but please bear with me as I vent. (And of course, no offense taken if you choose to delete this.)

    Something drastic has to change or the USA will completely implode, “Fall of the Roman Empire” style.
    (My native land of Canada is looking more and more attractive: a civilized country that cares for its citizens, equally, from ‘cradle to grave’, with virtually free healthcare, a high standard of affordable education, subsidized housing, etc…A place with liberty and justice for ALL, where racial tension is almost non-existent, where it is still true that you can ‘bring your tired, your poor, your disenfranchised…’)
    On this and other recent election cycles~~
    Now, before you shout me down as disloyal or a nay-sayer, and lest I sound insulting to Americans, I would suggest that I say all this exactly BECAUSE I DO have a high view of Americans. (Extremely patriotic Americans have been offended before by my views and this saddens me–I know I need to learn to express my criticism in an uplifting, progressive, and positive manner.) To do so thoroughly and convincingly would take many pages and hours and I don’t have the time (nor readership here) to warrant such an endeavor, but I would put forward the fact that my husband and I find ourselves, increasingly more of late, asking how it is that the nation “of the people, by the people, for the people” can be so manipulated, so brainwashed, so fatalistic, so “for the rich and for the liars.” Really?…with all the education and wealth and history, we’ve come to this: a Liar or a Buffoon? As my relatives in Canada and friends all over the world roll their eyes in disbelief and bewilderment, please, dear brothers and sisters how can you remain with shoulders shrugged, hands helplessly in the air, feeling that nothing can be done?? Let me emphasize: look around you America!! Study, be educated, travel, and read! The world has 6–32 countries (depending on what studies/according to what criteria you research) ahead of the USA that are caring for their citizens’ needs, that do not have rampant racism, that are led by leaders (although far from perfect) who ARE educated, many brilliant, caring servants of the people, who are driven by predominantly sound policies, and at least undergirded by integrity and sanity.
    Please, don’t give up; don’t throw in the towel!! Where are the grassroots movers and shakers? The founding -father-valour? The initiative and innovation and hope that established this nation in the first place?? I certainly don’t have all the practical answers–although as a Bible-believer and Jesus-follower, I’m very aware that we are ultimately talking about matters of the human heart—however, I do see dozens of scriptures applicable to this discussion, from the one Lael quotes here, to ones I happened to read this morning on the topic: “They that live by the sword will die by the sword,” as well as Jesus’ admonitions to peace, humility, care for one another and the foreigner within our borders, and so many more.
    In conclusion, dear reader, I am:
    -a simple, prayerful fellow-wanderer on this Planet Earth.
    -limited in scope and knowledge with my own biases no doubt.
    -just submitting topics for discussion.
    -appreciative for all the old USA has provided for myself and my family.
    -wanting the unnecessary suffering of millions to stop–for the broken Humpty Dumpty to be put back together again—for the “broken system” to finally be overhauled completely: to start from scratch.
    God bless us all; ALL our lives matter and His breaks to see so many Americans in great pain. Thank you.
    P.S. I apologize for submitting this response; it sounds like a rant. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface with scattered impressions, but I must go now: before this weekend I’m trying to get ahold of medical financiers to give advice on how to pay tens of thousands of dollars in bills as I’m a self-pay patient (due to the unaffordability of the U.S. insurance racket) and then, heart-in-my-throat, I’ll check the mailbox to see if our home insurance, faithfully paid for years (but controlled by the government-machine lead through FEMA, who claims they have no idea how much we’ll receive nor when) has actually finally cut us a cheque for the nearly $100K in expenses we are paying for flood damages of twelve weeks ago.
    If I had the time, I’d add paragraphs about my thoughts as a “foreigner” on just a few more of what I believe to be the causes of the predicaments we in America find ourselves:
    1. Extreme individualism 2. Violent Wild West mentality 3. Greed=need and the god of materialism 4. White supremacism 5. Black victimization/self-pity

    Maybe there could be more discourse on your blog, Lael, concerning these and other topics? It seems to me like it’s time to “get down and dirty” with some original, hardcore, real/raw, debating about the issues and possibly, drastic, solutions. 🙂 ?!

    • Lori, thanks for your comment.

      You ask, how it is that the nation “of the people, by the people, for the people” can be so manipulated, so brainwashed, so fatalistic, so “for the rich and for the liars.” Really?…with all the education and wealth and history, we’ve come to this: a Liar or a Buffoon?

      So manipulated? Trump and Hillary beat their opponents fair and square. Unfortunately, the Republican losers would not quit the race like Bush. Now there is still a chance at the convention that neither Hillary nor Trump will get all their bound and super delegates to vote for them. A great effort is being made to make that happen. We may yet see other options. Especially for the Republicans.

      Brainwashed? From the NYTimes: “David Geary, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, [said] that the practice among liberal interest groups of highlighting group differences, cultures, etc. has contributed to Trump’s appeal, especially given that white men are often blamed for being oppressive or the source of many of the issues being protested.

      “The result in the white working class, Geary argues, is to sharpen the us-versus-them character of politics. You cannot consistently have different groups arguing for equality, protesting etc. without creating an in-group, out-group mentality — an evolved bias that is easily invoked — within the U.S.”

      Our liberal culture teaches such identity politics that each group is becoming isolated, focused on its own voice and grievances and uninterested in coming together for the common good. At Oberlin (near Ferguson, MO) the students are so focused on their own groups that professors report that students have started sitting in class in racial groups and having fewer conversations with those outside their groups. One professor gave up on class discussion and assigned students independent study projects.

      Fatalistic? Without Jesus I would be far more cynical and fatalistic. With Christ, I believe that he and his church are the hope of the world. So we double down in prayer and outreach with a confident, alert expectation that he will do for us everything he promised.

      Paul goes on to say to the Corinthians, “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything (2 Cor 6:3-10).

      Very different response than shrugging or withdrawing or cursing the darkness.

      I’m so glad you came to America, where, as you have said, you have enjoyed so much more opportunity than Canada afforded you…and where we could meet and enjoy such a great friendship.

    • Thanks for your patient reply, Lael. Like I said, I was on a bit of a rant. You make great points here, and I apologize for not defining my terms more carefully. I think I should clarify a few definitions (as I intended them to mean):
      As I stated at the beginning, I do think highly of America with its ostensible values and hard “can do” work ethic and history, and I have faith that America/Americans can do much better. (Btw: Thanks for the information on the upcoming Republican Convention and that options may still be available…)
      By “manipulated” and “brainwashed” and “fatalistic” I mean that the American media coverage is phenomenally known (over the world) to be sensationalistic and skewed. eg. From giving Trump far more coverage/airtime than Clinton, to feeding the racial divide in what/how it is chosen to be aired, etc. I haven’t watch CNN or Fox for years; it became too troubling to see how each aimed (because of politics somewhat, but mostly viewership/money) to fan flames of divide: a chasm that is grievously deepening, pitting Right vs. Left and Black vs. White.
      More on my use of the overly-strong term “brainwashed.”— I mean–and this is touchy to say–that the education system and extreme patriotism (from some points of view) is all about ‘America as #1 and is perfect and can do no wrong.’ Also, my daughters in public school here were required to take American politics and history practically every year from 5th–11th grade, but never world history and only, if they elected, very cursory glances at the politics and history of other nations. This makes the thought processes for possibilities of change very limited in upcoming generations (and this in only the group of educated ones, never mind the many under-educated).
      You mentioned in your reply comment about Missouri classes sitting in racial groups; that’s exactly what I’m talking about. We were shocked to find that when my girls started high school here in Houston the students fiercely protected their racial groups and wouldn’t allow other races to eat together in the cafeteria, to walk down certain halls, to sit together in class, etc. I just can’t tell you how appalling that is for people entering from a country comprised of minorities where the norm is to work and live proactively together in great community. I feel it is unacceptable for this to be left as is: as the norm.
      By “fatalistic,” naturally I was not talking up about you or me or other Christians–“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ…” And you are absolutely right when you say “we double down and pray with alert expectation”–the opportunities and results incredible for me to share my faith and love with neighbors in the midst of flood disasters, of sharing the ONLY real hope with my wonderful (multi-racial) community college students, of trusting the Lord’s provision for medical needs (as a testimony to His fatherliness and love), and so much more… Such a joy. Pertinent to this particular debate, I assumed the piece you wrote was not just preaching to the choir; you have stated that you are grieved for this nation, that you desire to reach our culture with practical solutions. And it is totally in that vein that I even wrote/write anything at all here. Yes, I believe/know that Christ’s power is evidenced more in persecution than in ease, that the Spirit’s miraculous interventions are seen more often in desperate places, times, and needs….on a monthly basis I have dozens of stories telling of the mercies and miracles of the LORD–to His great glory! But when I describe my and my husband’s shock at the bewilderment of a people who’ve historically been considered to be the most in-control, personally empowered nation of individuals…well, I hope you can see how it just does not make any sense to us.
      One last clarification: on our move to the States – The truth is that at the time we moved to the States we left jobs, church and family that were very satisfying. However, the large company wooing him relentlessly (because, in their words “Canadians are known to have a high standard of education and work ethic”) did offer more pension benefits at the time, and as we were beginning to raise a family, AND at God’s prompting after much prayer, we moved southward. However, that is not to say we haven’t had second thoughts–we know many who’ve moved back to Canada because they, and I quote: “want to feel safe again, to leave the guns, the violence… to leave the hatred and racism… to have a better education standard…and free medical care.”
      In conclusion, my friend, there are pros and cons of various governmental systems and no one country on Planet Earth is or will be perfect (until Jesus comes!). I would hope that we could begin to think of the best of the various ‘successful’ nations and learn and grow and become better as a nation.
      Also, with my personal struggles and all the horror in the USA news of late, I felt I’d come out and say that perhaps we need to think outside the box as well as to talk about unpleasant issues with the goal of cooperative, groundbreaking solutions. And NO, I most definitely don’t have the answers, but I postulate and submit suggestions here for thought and discussion. And again, I apologize if my personal suffering of late has made me sound irritable or ungracious. I was hoping, simply, for honest engagement.
      With respect, love and wishes for the Lord’s abundant blessings,

      • All honest engagement appreciated, Lori. We are fairly bewildered at Trump as well. Oh, and when I spoke of racial groups dividing themselves in the classroom, it was the minorities taking the lead. Not the majority whites. Ironic that the focus on grievance leads us back to segregation from the other direction, no?