Sunday, June 24, 2018

O Ugly for Ungracious Skies

There have been, these last ethically blighted few years in our national life, a smattering of efforts at moral revival.   Most have focused on justice.

To be honest, the essence of America's moral rot is not our lamentable and growing tendency towards injustice.

Justice, after all, is the balance of competing interest claims within a society, culture, or nation state.  It is enforced by legal structures and authority.  It's a matter of material implementation of coercive power on the part of the state or ruling authority, which provides stability and consistency.

Just societies endeavor to create an equitable balance.  Unjust societies favor one group over another, the powerful over the poor, the Us over the Other, the Wizard over the Mudblood.

The just is obviously preferable.  It's a worthy struggle that has faced every society.  It is the striving of Hammurabi and the inspiration of authors of Torah.  It was the hope of the Magna Carta and the purpose of our Constitution.  We're still working on it.  We will always be working on it.

But while injustice is a significant symptom, it is not where the problem lies, any more than the numbness in your arm when your heart seizes in your chest is where the problem lies.

The great moral sickness in America today is not our lack of justice. It's our lack of grace.

As a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, it is this lack that most concerns me, because the Gospel is first and foremost about grace.  And we are so very, very much not that right now.

Instead, we are strong and rough and profane.  We are crass and grasping and selfish.   We are shrill and bellowing and resentful.

We are false and cruel and proud.

These afflictions are the diseases of the American soul, and they drive us as a nation away from grace and into the hands of liars and sycophants, thieves and brutalists.  We have left Bedford Falls, and become Potterton.

All because we have forgotten grace.

The gracious, generous soul does not cry out about how unfair everything is and how everything is someone else's fault.  The gracious, abundant nation does not complain about how we have been treated so very unfairly, or inhospitably close its doors to those in need.  A gracious leader does not tap resentments and outrage, does not attack the weak and the vulnerable, does not berate friends and coddle tyrants, does not bend the truth to their own benefit.

And a faith that claims these things represent the best spirit of a nation cannot claim to be illuminated and guided by grace.  God's shedded grace rolls off the pride-slickened back of such a nation.

If we are to strive for moral renewal in America, a revival of grace and basic decency is the place to start, and the goal towards which we should set ourselves.

And justice?  Justice is a great and important good.  But there is no justice without grace.

Graciousness, which encompasses kindness, forbearance, mercy, and love, is the rich soul soil in which justice grows.  Injustice is a horror to the gracious heart.

If we seek to recover our moral core as a nation, if we're hoping for moral revival?

Grace is what we have lost.  And it is the thing we most desperately need to find again, if America hopes to regain her integrity.