Grace and Revolution by Tom Schade

To me, "grace" is not in the explanation of how "Good" is somehow drawn out from the most "Evil" events and actions. "Grace" is the name we give to the human capacity to try to do so. "Grace" is the turning of the will away from despair to hope. And because, we humans are made in God's image, it is not just a quirk of the human personality, but something fundamental about how all of this is put together.

There's been a fair amount of discussion about President Obama's assertion in his Charleston eulogy that God was using Dylann Roof and his evil act for a greater purpose: to awaken the nation to the evil of white racism and specifically to move against the confederate flag as an entrenched symbol of that racism.

Let's speculate neither about the purposes of God, which are unknowable to us, nor the nature of killing nine people at prayer, for it is unquestionably evil. And it happened. And it is not unprecedented, and it will happen again. White supremacy kills.

When people object to Obama implying that God had a divine plan at work it is because it makes God out to be a monster, or that it justifies evil, which is really the same thing. And we are against evil. So if not the plan of God, then Dylann Roof's evil act was his own human evil act, and the rest of us should stop it from happening. And perhaps God will help us.

It follows then that it does not matter how entrenched, systematic, and ruthless the system of evil that spawned Dylann Roof, it comes from humanity, and it is our job to end it. Some of us stare unflinchingly at the situation and mutter the word "revolution."

When confronted with the reality of systemic, entrenched, lethal, self-replicating evil (anti-black violence, mass incarceration, climate disaster, rape culture, mass poverty, anti-woman violence), the human mind leaps beyond the realistic and rational to find hope.

Really, the notion that an all-powerful God is playing some eleven dimensional chess game in which Dylann Roof is pawn on God's side is not much more magical than the belief that there will be a mass uprising and moral transformation that will end white supremacy.

I am not here to judge between types of magical thinking. I am emotionally committed to the power of social movements; my life has been organized around my hopes for them and my faith in them. But I recognize that they are my own subjective circuit breaker.

Follow your own thoughts: think deeply about any of the evils of the world as presently structured. What are the chances for change? It's depressing and you can follow your thoughts down a cycle of despair, until a thought arises which will act as a circuit breaker to that cycle. "Perhaps this is all God's Plan." "We will rise up together and set things right." "Jesus will come back." "84 million reincarnations from now, we shall escape earthly plane of sorrows."

Grace is that we are blessed with a mental circuit breaker which pulls us out of cycling despair. And as it is that our yearning for God is the best evidence we have for God, and  that our capacity to forgive is a sign that the forward motion of time means that reality allows for second chances, so too, our dogged efforts to find hope in the worst situation signal to us grace.
from the beach. 


  1. Grace- that circuit breaker- is exactly what I get and sorely need from UU. Without it, my purely rational reflections on the future of the world are, shall we say, not very cheerful. Hope is a clearly extra-rational leap of faith but absolutely essential.


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