Civil Discourse
Vol. 1, Issue 2.1

Note: I may start releasing these in parts rather than releasing all at once. Makes it easier to collect and publish as we go. Enjoy!

Something to Ponder

This week, I want to focus on the last paragraph of a recent NPR story. This article is reacting to an unfortunate series of events involving white people calling police on people of color for inconsequential reasons. This is a troubling but not necessarily new situation in and of itself. However, the final paragraph, subtitled “On potential solutions” stands out. Here is the paragraph:

We’ve got to come up with some policies that raise the costs of bad behavior — of treating people differently than you would want to be treated. And that is a problem of white fear being weaponized, and that is a problem of police officers being a little too prickly when people are upset about having been judged harshly or inappropriately.

Two phrases there stand out, in reverse order:

“Treating people differently than you would want to be treated.” The authors of this piece are calling out “bad behavior” as that which doesn’t conform to a distinctly biblical principle. They quote, almost verbatim, the inverse of the “golden rule,” Matt 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (ESV). What always surprises me about society is it’s “discovery” about the best way to live as humans. They end up back at the place they’ve worked so hard to escape. It’s like trying to reverse engineer morality when you have the schematics available to you. Going back to a table talk by Joe Rigney, he said something to the effect that truth suppression (per Romans 1:18–23) is a difficult task. Reality will always push back. Going with the grain of reality is easier. Pay attention to where we struggle with our hermeneutics of the Bible, nature, or anything. When people are trying really hard not to hear what is being said, it may be because they are working against what they know is true. Don’t try to make things true. Reality will always fight back.

Which brings us to the second phrase: “raise the costs of bad behavior.” This implies that we do not have a high cost for bad behavior as a society. And I would agree with this. What is remarkable is that many of the views represented by NPR and society at large generally advocate for licentiousness in other arenas. Movements like #MeToo are in part a result of advocating for complete, individual sexual freedom. Somehow we think we can pick and choose our moralities to somehow fit with the rule of treating people the way you want to be treated. “Don’t judge me, especially if I’m judging you.”

Finally, what this fails to realize is that the penalty for “bad behavior” is already astronomically high. Edwards would say they are infinitely high because they are committed against and infinitely holy God and therefore deserving of infinite punishment. The cost can be no higher. God gives only one “potential solution,” his son Jesus, who absorbed all the punishment we deserved for our “bad behavior,” so that in him, God might reconcile the world to himself. Therefore, these are all gospel issues and we should react as such.