I feel like I blog about this all the time. But, unfortunately, I think it bears repeating constantly, because it’s the most basic fact of the universe, as integral to the order of the times and the seasons as gravity and the weather.
Humanity isn’t good.
We, all the people of the world aren’t good. We are only evil continually, as God noticed way back in the book of Genesis.
And yet, we believe very much in our own goodness.
I don’t like using the word ‘we’ because it creates, for me, a resonating dissonance that reverberates all through my being and makes me want to run naked and screaming through the pathetic fall foliage. Anytime I use the word ‘we’ I am making some kind of assumption about you. Most of the time it’s fine. I can say, “We went to the store,” and if we did in fact go to the store, it’s no problem. But when I say something like, “We need to love our neighbor,” I’m making the not veiled enough accusation that you don’t, and also that we have the same neighbor.
And yet, there I did it. I just said, “We believe very much in our own goodness.” I said something universal, and bound you to myself, whether you wanted to be so bound or not.
And truly, as one might tell from public discourse–if Twitter can be said to be “discourse,” though it is certainly public enough–over the last few weeks, there isn’t really any “we.” Abyssal political, religious and philosophical divides are the reality that make up ‘our’ common American life. So many people don’t want to be associated with me, and, truly, I don’t really want to go near some people with a thousand letter keyboard. There are so many people in this great land I would feel fortunate not to have to meet (Harvey Weinstein, cough).
And yet, that’s very bad. That inclination is bad. And I have it because I am not good, just like you aren’t either. Thou and I, together, in the core essential part of being human, we believe in a goodness that we don’t in fact possess. We, both of us, can’t really escape it. It’s foundational to our human identity and way of being.
Even when I pay lip and keyboard service to the truth that I myself am not fundamentally a good person, when I confess to being a sinner for example, that truth doesn’t usually work itself down into the core of my being. I say one thing with my lips and live another way altogether. I judge all things by the measuring stick of my own thoughts, inclinations, preferences, and emotional world view. I can’t help it, because I am a human person. You do too, because you also are human, unless you’re a spamming bot.
And so we, together, can’t solve any of the issues of the day. We can’t come up with practical hard headed, rational solutions to the problem of gun violence, or heroine, or misogyny, or corruption, or how to get the FBI to enter all the little details into the database, or what to do when children go on living in abusive situations and we see that they are and yet we just can’t seem to do anything about it. But we Think that we can. If only You would join Me in my idea of a solution, then We would solve the world’s problems, and until You do join Me I’m going to verbally assault you on Twitter. That’s the way it plays out. And every day our futility mounts up to the heavens. The more we strive, the worse it gets.
Still, there is that old and tired saw about God. Remember that? He was in fact not a part of our corporate humanity. When ‘we’ were going along partaking of our common lie about our own goodness, he laid aside the difference of his own nature and joined with us. He came to share in our humanity. He took the black lie of our destructive ‘goodness’ onto himself and died.
I mean, because we, you and I, are subject to death. There’s no way we can escape it. It’s the one assumption I can make about you that will always bear out. You’re going to die. And so am I. One way or another. Either violently in a pew on Sunday morning, or violently being run over by a car, or ravaged by some painful and terrifying disease, or maybe more peacefully than that, except that having the soul wrenched away from its habitation of the body isn’t ever peaceful. Death is the fitting result of believing you’re good when you’re not. And God didn’t have to have anything to do with it. He could have kept his distance. It was his right. It would have been fair.
But instead of being fair, and just towards us, he came here and joined himself irrevocably to our death. And because he is God, in so doing he broke apart death itself.
Which is kind of what we’re always trying to do, isn’t it? I mean, trying to bring a halt to gun violence, to cure cancer, to stop abuse and murder–aren’t we basically trying to cure ourselves of death? But we can’t do it. Because we’re not good. Only God can, and did.
So the best thing, actually, would be to pray. Because God already did not disdain our human nature. He lived and died as one of us. But he also rose again from the grave. And it’s only by turning to him and admitting that we aren’t good that we can begin to have the strong power of his resurrection begin to overturn our commitment, our slavery to death.
It would be better if we did it together, you and I. But even if you don’t, I still should. But you should too. Both of us together.