Well! That’s over? Right? Well, no.I wish it were that simple.
Nothing that Happened in 2020 was the fault of the math or the number by which the year was known. All the evil that bubbled up in 2020 had been simmering for some time before it boiled over. Some of it has been baked right in to our culture over the centuries.
The injustice and the bigotry and the denial of reality were all there, all along, waiting to become problems. And that’s just where all the real trouble lies. Not with the inevitable pandemic or any one incident of racial injustice or partisan gamesmanship. It was with us all along or it never could have had the impact that it did. And that part is depressing.
In 2018, I posted right here that the new year started free of imperfections and mistakes. I am sorry that I was so wrong. The mistakes were already in place, waiting to become catastrophes; the injustice was already happening and creating the fear and anger and righteous fury that came to a head this summer. The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd would not have sparked the movement they did if they had happened without precedent.
The fact that a pandemic became a political issue rather than a matter of scientific fact is a sign that we have deep divides in our culture. That we cannot get some people to listen to experts because they are simply convinced that all experts who agree with the consensus in their field are involved in a conspiracy.
The new year does not come as a blank slate; we are not free of the responsibility of the years past. We are not blameless for what we carry forward or what we choose to leave in the past.
Today, I ask you to choose to be your best self; to know your own limits and to trust the community to support you where you are not an expert; to trust those who are experts and to be worthy of their trust in return. None of us can do it all, and none of us are meant to. We need to sort out how to be in community with all our neighbors, starting with those who have suffered the most and been the least included.
We need to recommit to the principle of a Beloved Community with justice, compassion, and equity for all. That has to include listening to those who are the most marginalized about meeting their needs.
One of the great things about community is that we are allowed to be our own best self, but it depends on allowing others to do the same and trusting one another. Only by giving one another the same freedom—and the same responsibility to others—do we form the web of connection that builds healthy community. Society and technology have advanced beyond the point where we can each expect to know enough about every subject; we specialize because it allows us to do much more than if we each demanded to know it all. Experts make civilization on our scale possible.
The new year can be a better one. What I am afraid of is that instead of moving forward and resolving the issues that have come to light in the last year, we will pretend that going “back to normal” is the same thing. I fear that too many of us will settle for what Dr. King called “negative peace which is the absence of tension” rather than “a positive peace which is the presence of justice“. True justice will require us to acknowledge and work through the tension and discomfort.
We can end the new year better off than the last, or it can only seem better for a while. We must understand, going in, that these are not the same thing.
Thomas provides inspiration, affirmation, and encouragement through his Patreon page. At higher subscription levels, you also get worship elements ready to be read or even dropped in to your worship service.