Another Layer Deep

Absolute Compassion II, linocut with embossing, 1994

This post is a continuation of a previous post, Love Is The Only Road found here.

If our explanation of the differences between us concerning how we see things and how we act goes no further than simple egotism then we are lost just as we begin. Even when such behavior is fairly described as self-absorbed, it will bring us little insight and will not lead to better relationships. It will not persuade people to make changes.

A compassionate response to self-centered behavior will dig one layer deeper to understand better what is motivating behaviors that are so difficult to understand. This is no quick fix. It will take time.

In fact, the lack of compassion may go so deep that it will be a generation before we heal. Healing first the fears and the hate inside of the self-absorbed person. And a generation to heal the wounds left by the attacks, disregard and contempt left in their wake.

So we will go another layer deep to fund out why lying has become acceptable, repeatable even celebrated. To find out how conspiracy theories took hold of the imaginations and hearts of so many. How meanness became a hallmark of Christians.

Donald Trump and his policies have stood center stage for all of this. His antics, his wholesale fabrications, his self-absorbed need for attention have set the tone for the era. But President Trump will come and go and the essential issues will remain. He didn’t create a place for himself in the American psyche. He merely filled in where there was already room. And frankly, that is the scary part for me.

But it has specific, on the ground, ramifications. Out of the mindset and policies of the self-absorbed real life suffering occurs. Children really were taken from their parents at the southern border, housed in cages with minimal supplies and supervision and without sufficient documentation to ensure reunion with their families. There really have been a wide range of attacks on American voter integrity. More than 175,000 people have died of the novel coronavirus.

How can these things be possible? How can they be accepted by so many without remorse? What happened in the thirty years leading up to this moment? Why have Evangelicals been especially vulnerable to this way of thinking despite a tradition that emphasizes loving others?

Of course, there are more examples. And there are many sources to explore such as long history of racism, the culture wars, authoritarians and their followers, personality disorders, public discourse and civility, cultural and demographic shifts, and so much more.

It is daunting. But I think it is possible to speak to our neighbors that honor them even as we disagree. I think it is still possible to love our neighbors. Even today. Even the way things are right now.

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