Let us whites especially admit that many of us have inadvertently imbibed theological and ethical assumptions that, in the face of a tragedy like this, show themselves to be naÃ¯ve. We sometimes write and act as if the Christian ethic is mainly niceness on steroids, all in the name of grace. Anyone who knows my writing knows I’ve wandered into this territory from time to time. In short, we do not take into sufficient account the depth of evil roaming this world, and in this particular case, the radical evil that lies at the heart of racism.
Of course, we mustn’t swing the pendulum in the other direction. We mustn’t now abandon the doctrine of imago dei, nor the need for mutual respect, nor the fruitfulness of dialogue, and so forth. To assume we can solve racism with by merely mocking white supremacists and treating perpetrators of hate crimes with brutality and hatred””well, that is just as naÃ¯ve. As if evil can be checked with distrust, suspicion, and hate.
And we can never forget that radical “niceness”””what is better called agape love””has extraordinary power to bring miracles to bear on seemingly intractable evil in isolated cases. Agape love on the ground is a large part of the reason Martin Luther King, Jr. made as much progress as he did in his day.
Still, the moment of lament is the moment to rethink what we believe, and to adopt the radically realistic ethic of Jesus, who has no illusions about the power of evil….
Read it all.