Langston Hughes is a favorite poet. Whenever I say this, people get upset with me in different ways for different reasons. My favorite football team is the Green Bay Packers. Now that I’ve said that people will get upset, left and right, that I follow football at all.
Chicago Bears fans are just upsetting.
When poetry and sports are angry-making, we are running out of common topics.
As a person who likes people, and is all too aware of his own flaws and sins, the times are such that I feel like writing about nothing contentious, but there is almost nothing left.
I understand that the world contains great evils and that only a great saint could avoid being warped by them. I certainly have not. There are few issues on which I think I am qualified and should speak. This tempts me to always be quiet, but as a citizen of a Republic, this is an abdication of a basic duty.
Sometimes Republics strike me as demanding we know much and all be saints: we must opine, or at least have opinions to vote, but we are so unfit.
We are not saints.
Yet the saints themselves were not perfect in all ways at all times and in all places. They too were children of their times. We recall and venerate them for what they got right and the grace that transformed them, not for a sinless perfection.
They got life perfectly after death.
Judge issues, but have mercy on people.
Mostly I do not wish to judge people: people are complicated. Issues are easier: racism is evil, ripping off our employees is bad, and abortion is murder. Our nation treated African-Americans and the First Nations horribly. This is all (mostly) straight up. Even if I am wrong, I am free to change my mind.
Just now, however, my social media feeds are demanding that I judge people. This is much harder. African American teens too often are judged for childhood errors and I wish that to end. This does not mean I wish to judge other teens for their childhood errors for life. Sin is evil, but people are a mixed bag.
Stalin got the big thing wrong. We should condemn him—his acts killed millions. Though if Stalin had wanted a priest, then that poor man would have been obligated to help him find salvation.
Most of us are not so terrible as Stalin. We are souls created in the image of God much in need of mercy. I am. God: I wish for mercy and grace.
Perhaps part of the problem is that Americans have not been willing to see both our good and bad sides. We are either hell or heaven and no human place is ever either. We have given hope to many and been compared to a shining city on a hill, but we are also “jump Jim Crow” and Wounded Knee.
Condemn evil, but seek the good in others.
This last week Hope and I walked on a beach at the Los Angeles Airport. It was lovely. Despite knowing my continued failings, Hope has mercy and we go forward. Someone might say: “Doesn’t Hope have failings? Why present such a filtered view of her?”
Maybe. That’s not my business. I want mercy, so I extend mercy.
So it is with Langston Hughes, too comfortable with evil communism, but a great man in so many other ways. So it is with the Green Bay Packers, playing a game that is unimportant, yet so jolly to so many of us. In others, so much as I can, the good done must be the focus.
I condemn Wounded Knee as wholly evil. I mourn Bull Run as the start of a horrible war, but one that lead to the glory of Emancipation. My guess is that if I knew people on all sides, the moral complexity would overwhelm me.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Rachel Motte edited this post and added the sub-headings.