How Long? Reflections on Arizona and a Broken Nation

This is way beyond politics. Anyone on any side or no side who uses violent images and metaphors in their discourse or who suggests that their opponents are causing or plotting the destruction of our way of life should step back, and instead of reloading, they should reassess.

Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them demonic.

It doesn't even make them wrong, although I can't even see how someone could model that most necessary job of critical thinking—changing your mind—in today's political climate.

That is why people of faith will have to lead the way in calling for and modeling a way of being loving community in a world where that is increasingly more fragmented. Andy Crouch, assessing the trends shaping American life as we know it now, argues that Americans are becoming more polarized than ever: "We [have] used the technologies of connection and the commitment to place to sort ourselves into more and more tightly homogenous subcultures." By sorting ourselves into groups of people like ourselves, we automatically reinforce our own suspicions and misconceptions. We develop a greater and greater distrust toward those others who don't hold our beliefs and understandings of religion, politics, culture.

And naturally—if we're not careful—we wish they weren't around to trouble us.

How can this trend be remedied, this breach closed?

It will take effort—concerted, conscious effort—to reach out to each other, to embrace our common humanity, to recognize each other as Children of God.

It will take commitment to this call: to relearn community, real community, to remind ourselves that everyone, even those with whom we ardently disagree, is made in the image of God.

Here is what my dear friend the Rev. John Ballenger told his congregation at Woodbrook Baptist Church in Baltimore Sunday:

Blessed are those, regardless of political persuasion who say, "Stop!" We know what works, but it works toward ends we don't want—toward ends we can't afford. Stop for our souls' sake. Stop for the sake of the soul of our country. Stop for the sake of God's creation. We don't want the diminishment of anyone's personhood. We don't want some agenda prioritized over people. We don't want someone's dignity disrespected or undermined. We don't want any kind of target put on people whether they're responsible gun owners, welfare mothers, business people, or illegal aliens. We reject the rhetoric, the attitude, the priorities, the tactics of a culture that has led us these last few days to bomb scares and shootings. And blessed are those whose sense of what's best for all of us is more important than their sense of what's best for them.

This is our call, at last: to realize that the Way of the Cross is about being the face of love, not the fist of judgment.

Many words have been spoken, written, wailed. More will come. In the weeks ahead, these words may lead us to some hard but necessary understandings about how our political lives and our faith lives may be at odds, some hard but necessary understandings about who we are called to be.

In the next three weeks, I'm going to dig deep into three of the big theological challenges suggested by the Arizona shootings: Christians and guns, Christians and hate speech, and Christians and the mentally ill.

I know I will not need to explain that this is not what I hoped to be writing about now, but I cannot remain silent when the pain is so deep and the need so great.

It is time to sing a new song.

1/13/2011 5:00:00 AM
  • Mainline Protestant
  • Faithful Citizenship
  • Violence
  • Mainline Protestantism
  • Media
  • politics
  • Christianity
  • Greg Garrett
    About Greg Garrett
    Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post,, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.