It is not too simple to say of the whole human enterprise through thousands of years that at any moment, only one of two things is happening. Either we are cursing and struggling to be seen and loved. Or we are blessing and being peace.
In the days before the inauguration, I viewed a four-hour documentary on PBS. Called “The Divided States of America,” it examined how Americans grew far apart during the presidency of Barack Obama. Grief gripped me as I watched. Frame after frame revealed the unrestrained hatred of countless Americans for our former president. . . What was its source?
You need both, you know—both wings. Every nation, every organization, needs the conservatives, who give attention to the existing structure. And every nation needs its liberals and progressives, who give attention to what must yet come into being, and must come into our being, if we are to adapt to the forces of change in society and technology which history throws up like siege works against every living thing.
Today, we begin a series of sermons which aims to connect our faith in Christ with the fights of our times. Right up to the November presidential election, we will consider many of the vexed conflicts of our civilization around which no moral or political will exists for decision and solution of vast injustices. I do not aim to define “what Christians must believe” about the crises we face, but I do want to claim that your commitment to Christ must issue in a decisive way of seeing our situation . . .
Don’t you sometimes feel that religion, the way we do it, is no match for the way the world does wrong? Every day in this city, police stop and frisk–violate–two thousand mostly black and brown men doing nothing wrong–and what has church to say to that sorrow? A few weeks ago, an eighteen year old Bronx boy was shot and killed by a policeman in the bathroom of his own home. He was unarmed, scared, dumping something in the toilet bowl. What is old time religion for that boy, that family, for any citizen whose heart cries out at the dawning of another day of evil?
Almost 180 years ago, the French citizen Alexis de Tocqueville traveled the new America and later described the character of our people in essays which still startle us Americans with features so recognizable. He saw, for example, our vaunted individualism. He defined it as “a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw into the circle of family and friends . . .”