Friday, July 02, 2010
Morning thanks--common grace
In this morning's New York Times, David Brooks pays homage to Christopher Hitchens, oddly enough. Brooks is really "button down," while Hitchens simply isn't--in any way. And while they may occasionally share some political viewpoints, in many ways they are completely different human beings. But Brooks says he admires Hitchens despite their undeniable differences, because he respects Hitchens' commitments to "psychology, context, courage and virtue — important things that are hard to talk about in policy jargon or journalese."
Brooks says that Hitchens' literary sensibility is something often lacking in political and cultural discussions these days and that reading Hitchens is a good exercise for young people "with a literary bent," because in the work of Christopher Hitchens, they can observe "different models" of "how to be a thoughtful person, how to engage in political life and what sort of things one should know in order to be truly educated."
Just one of the reasons I like David Brooks is the kind of largesse he shows for Mr. Hitchens, who is, for many, rather easy to dislike--decidedly opinionated, often seemingly arrogant and intolerant. That he admires Hitchens is somehow understandable, given who David Brooks is--a columnist of unusual breadth.
Yesterday, we listened to newly appointed Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea explain the exacting way in which judgments are made in the inner sanctum of her state's Supreme Court, in an interview she did with Minnesota Public Radio. Central to that process was the unconditional respect each judge has to give to each other, she said, even when they disagree, and most importantly when they disagree radically.
That kind of largesse, that kind of respect is not necessarily the way I was raised--and I'm not handing down an indictment of my parents thereby. I had enough residual Protestantism in me to believe, quite vehementally, that my way--the Christian Reformed way--was not only the best way, but the only way. I think of it, broadly speaking, as "the doctrine of the antithesis"--that there are some few of us who know and a ton of those who don't. I'm not sure I was taught that, or if it simply was the way, in my own childlike mind, I appropriated what I was taught. Despite Jesus's own admonition, I don't believe that I took "love your enemies" particularly seriously.
On the other hand, one of the finest doctrines of my own religious heritage was and still is something called "common grace," the belief and teaching that God almighty allots to all of humankind sufficient grace to live, breath, and have being. Without common grace, this world would look pretty dismal, and I could well be just another Goodman Brown, who never recovered from his dalliance with evil--imagined or not--and whose "dying hour was gloom." Somehow--or so it seems to me--"common grace" is a tougher sell than "the antithesis."
I'm thankful for a heritage that honored "the antithesis," the radical separation between the broad and narrow way; but I'm also thankful for a more difficult worldview, also part of the religious legacies I carry, one that honors rather than dispels differences. I'm thankful for what my own heritage calls the doctrine of "common grace."
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:58 AM