First Alton Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police officers. Then Philando Castile was shot and killed at a traffic stop in Minneapolis. Both of these men were black, sparking nationwide outrage and protests. At one of these protests in Dallas, snipers opened fire on police officers, killing five and wounding six more. Our nation is officially going crazy.
The easiest thing to do is to let go and be swept away by the rhetoric, allowing emotions and stereotypes to rob us of all hope and joy. As Christians though, we’re better than this. Here are five keys to keeping your cool in a world gone crazy:
1). Don’t assume you know the mindset of another portion of society, because you don’t. I’m a 30s white male. When I drive, my only fear of law enforcement is if I’m speeding so as to avoid a ticket. I’ve never feared being pulled over simply because of the color of my skin. It’s never entered my mind that I might be shot during a traffic stop. I’ve never had to coach my sons on how to address an officer of the law so as to not provoke an agitated response. It’s much easier for me to identify with police officers because I have several friends in law enforcement and respect them greatly. Unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes or have a close friend in a different portion of society, don’t assume you know everything they walk through.
2). If social media is fueling your despair, then get off of social media. In moments like this, social media can become a cesspool of negativity, as people use the faux-anonymity of the internet to share their completely unfiltered and unedited thoughts. That usually doesn’t add anything helpful to the cultural discussion. My primary social media portal is Facebook, and for the past week my news feed has been clogged with opinions, rants and links that will only deepen the wedge between already divided sections of society. Every once in awhile it’s good to unplug and regain perspective.
3). Don’t focus on the stereotypes, focus on individuals. As a white male, I’m being encouraged to focus on the negative stereotypes of the black population of America. That’s not helpful at all. Here’s what I choose to focus on: on the day I post this blog, my son (white) is playing an all-star baseball game at a tournament in town. His team is about half white and half black. Those kids on my son’s baseball team aren’t stereotypes. They are precious individuals (and darn good baseball players). My family sits next to their families. We cheer our boys on together. It’s easy to hate a stereotype. It’s easy to love an individual. So focus on the individual.
4). Never underestimate the power of the gospel. If you think poor race relations are a modern problem, you would be mistaken. In the first century, there were huge societal gaps between men and women, slave and free, Greeks and barbarians. Society was as disjointed and segmented as you could imagine. And yet the gospel tore through all that and gave people a new way to live. “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11) It is antithetical as a Christian to be in despair, because Jesus overcame every power in this world. If you say you believe in Jesus but you don’t see any hope for society, then you don’t really believe in Jesus.
5). If you don’t like where our world is going, do something about it. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). How can you do practical good for just one person or one family that our society says should be your enemy? Who can you befriend and bless that’s of a different race than you? That’s in a different socio-economic class than you? That’s in law enforcement? If culture is trying to keep us apart, how can you demonstrate the overwhelming power of the gospel through your actions? (And no, a warm fuzzy social media post doesn’t count as action.) What can you actually do? “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
QUESTION: What other steps can you take to keep your cool in a world gone crazy?