I must decide not to be distracted or diverted in asking God to lay my heart bare about where I have failed to love my neighbours (not to mention my brothers and sisters in Christ), where the casual inheritance of loaded language and subtle superiority has infected my view of others, and where I have not listened carefully to those who love me enough to correct me.
Sometimes a problem seems so entrenched and so impossible to scale that giving up is the easiest option. That is as true of an untidy study as it is of global poverty, or endemic racism. Not knowing where to begin, and feeling unclear about what one’s responsibilities are, can lead to defeatism, defensiveness and denial. This is especially the case on current social media where the demands of climate issues, of Covid 19, and of heightened racial tensions clamour constantly for our attention, at once demanding our action and emphasising our impotence. Vexation, frustration, and resistance follow hard upon the heels of such sentiments.
In the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers, the simmering racial tensions in the USA and beyond have gone beyond boiling point, with a growing conviction that the long hoped for breakthrough in racial equality might be pressed into reality by popular protest and resistance. Riding closely alongside this is a concern that white oppression and privilege be owned and accepted by those whose heritage has perpetrated and perpetuated injustice. Much of this rhetoric can leave the hearer stunned into silence, provoked into resistance, or abandoned to inaction.
A better alternative might be to define the limits of what can be done, seek opportunities to do what we can, and set our course to change those things which lie to our hands. In this post I want to reflect on 5 things that I can do in our present context, while implicitly rejecting the unreasonable demands which could be laid at our door, which speak more to a culture of pointless guilt and godless culpability than the gospel of Christ.
1. I can switch off the signals
One of the upshots of our hyperconnected world is that we are too vocal and lacking in thought, quick in reaction and slow in reflection. This is particularly dangerous on issues of such historic and cultural enormity as racial inequality and injustice. The concept that ‘silence is violence’ fails to recognise that sometimes talking can be trite, when we are not truly speaking from conscience. If adopting a hashtag is made into a shibboleth whereby one can ford the brook of cultural acceptance, then we can pay lip service to issues which truly merit introspection and heartfelt repentance. It might be an idea, then, for me to resist reacting, to resist looking for instant approval from a movement, and to take time to adequately reflect on a biblically rooted response, which is more concerned to honour Christ than please a crowd. Virtue signalling is not a spiritual gift, it is not love to our neighbour, and it does not challenge or change hearts.