We Need More Grace

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Victor Tan Chen believes that America’s capitalist economy is in the midst of a spiritual crisis that can be remedied by heavy doses of grace.  Here is a taste of the Virginia Commonwealth University sociologist’s article in The Atlantic:

The concept of grace comes from the Christian teaching that everyone, not just the deserving, is saved by God’s grace. Grace in the broader sense that I (an agnostic) am using, however, can be both secular and religious. In the simplest terms, it is about refusing to divide the world into camps of deserving and undeserving, as those on both the right and left are wont to do. It rejects an obsession with excusing nothing, with measuring and judging the worth of people based on everything from a spotty résumé to an offensive comment.

While it has its roots in Christianity, grace is prized by many other religions—from Buddhism’s call to accept suffering with equanimity, to the Tao Te Ching’s admonishment to treat the good and bad alike with kindness, to the Upanishads’ focus on the eternal and infinite nature of reality. Grace can thrive outside religious faith, too: not just in the abstract theories of philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, but also in the humanism of scientists like Carl Sagan, who, inspired by Voyager 1’s photograph of Earth as a tiny speck, wrote that this “pale blue dot” underscored the “folly of human conceits” and humans’ responsibility to “deal more kindly with one another.” Unlike an egalitarian viewpoint focused on measuring and leveling inequalities, grace rejects categories of right and wrong, just and unjust, and offers neither retribution nor restitution, but forgiveness.

With a perspective of grace, it becomes clearer that America, the wealthiest of nations, possesses enough prosperity to provide adequately for all. It becomes easier to part with one’s hard-won treasure in order to pull others up, even if those being helped seem “undeserving”—a label that today serves as a justification for opposing the sharing of wealth on the grounds that it is a greedy plea from the resentful, idle, and envious.

At the same time, grace reminds the well-educated and well-off to be less self-righteous and less hostile toward other people’s values. Without a doubt, opposing racism and other forms of bigotry is imperative. There are different ways to go about it, though, and ignorance shouldn’t be considered an irremediable sin. Yet many of the liberal, affluent, and college-educated too often reduce the beliefs of a significant segment of the population to a mash of evil and delusion. From gripes about the backwardness and boredom of small-town America to jokes about “rednecks” and “white trash” that are still acceptable to say in polite company, it’s no wonder that the white working class believes that others look down on them. That’s not to say their situation is worse than that of the black and Latino working classes—it’s to say that where exactly they fit in the hierarchy of oppression is a question that leads nowhere, given how much all these groups have struggled in recent decades.

Obama, a Christian, has hinted at his belief in grace quite frequently, mostly in urging people to be more tolerant of outlooks different from their own. After the Charleston church shooting in the summer of 2015, however, he was more explicit. In praising the parishioners who welcomed their alleged killer into their Bible study, and the victims’ family members who forgave him in court, Obama invoked grace—the “free and benevolent favor of God,” bestowed to the sinful and saintly alike. “We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other,” he said. “But we got it all the same.”

Read the entire article here.  I think we could all use a little more grace and we can also try to show a little more grace.