We hold the whole truth within us, not just the good parts.
There’s been a lot of racial tension in our nation the past few years – a lot of high-profile stories of injustice, a lot of activism, a lot of marches. But the recent protests and violence in Charlottesville felt bigger, an alarming new plane of conflict that left many of us aghast. Nazis and and Klansmen were marching on one of the nation’s great universities, trying to ‘unite the right,’ and driving cars into crowds of peaceful protesters. The President gave a response that white supremacists cheered. The shock of it was fundamental to those who thought we’d been moving in a better direction as a nation – is this my country? Is this 2017?
Who knew that such extraordinary vitriol, cynicism and hatred was living among us, waiting to be drawn out?
Early Saturday morning, Hurricane Harvey slammed onto the coast of Texas, and over the past five days, horrific flooding has brought extended trauma to a vast region of our country. Forecasters knew it would be bad, but it’s turned out to be worse than anything they’d ever seen. The lives and homes lost, and the many-layered catastrophe of flooded communities amount to what any civic leader would have described as the worst-case scenario.
Yet every news story covering the devastation has featured stories of breath-taking courage and heroism from community members helping and saving strangers. People giving everything they have, sacrificing every material comfort, even risking their own lives, in total dedication to the cause of neighborly love. These stories of care, kindness and service will fill many books in the years to come, and they show how a great horror can bring forth the best in people.
Who knew that such extraordinary generosity, courage and heroism was living among us, waiting to be drawn out?
Well, the truth is, it’s all there, all of it, all the time.
The ugliest truths about us are true, regardless of whether we’re paying attention to them. And the glories of human kindness and charity are fully alive, even in the most terrible moments.
When racist rhetoric and hate crimes spike in our society, it’s not that we’re becoming more bigoted as a people, all of a sudden. We have to contend with the fact that bigotry is a fact of our life as a nation. It’s here. It’s shaped our history and it’s part of us now.
And when dire circumstances inspire people to boldly, selflessly help one another, it’s not that we’re just then becoming good and honorable people. Virtue, decency, and goodwill have always existed in us, at the core.
The question we really need to ask is, which parts of our character as a people are we going to nurture?
Which angels of our nature, as Lincoln might say, will we allow to swell the chorus of our union?
With which side of ourselves – the vile or the benevolent – are we going to lead?
The Table is a Christian church in Davenport, Iowa, seeking transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith
Worship Sundays at 5pm
102 E. 2nd St. Davenport Iowa