Only truth will make America well

Published 6:16 pm Saturday, August 6, 2016

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This time in our nation’s history seems eerily like the 1960s: marches, clashes, protests, counter-protests, riots, contested politics, and controversial civil rights issues.

It cannot be denied that there is unrest in our land. The source of this unrest does not lie in some ultra-secret, backroom alliance that rules the masses; rather it lies in the hearts of individual men and women. We are yet again at a crossroads in America.

The issues confronting us as a nation are not new. What can be new however, is how we as individual Americans, along with those in positions of authority, respond to them. Consider this, our Creator will never allow power, no matter how significant, to overwhelm His truth.

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The truth is this: America is spiritually sick. The unity of the growing diversity within this Republic is a fragile unity. It can only be maintained with a truth that is utterly transparent; hence the spiritual sickness.

America is a macrocosm of each of our individual lives. Each of us is composed of a nature that desires to do what is good, just, and right; but as recent events have proven, this nature is also capable of unspeakable evil.

To deal honestly with the dichotomy of our own natures, requires some form of inner dialogue. A person cannot remain in a state of mental wellness while recognizing only a portion of his or her total psyche. Who desires to be bi-polar, or even worse, schizophrenic? America is spiritually sick.

Force (or naked power), when applied to a person without attempted dialogue or understanding, births a counter-force (or power in the opposite direction) that will one-day challenge authority yet again. The use of naked power, even when used democratically, always births division where there is no genuine dialogue or attempt at understanding the minority position.

I believe it was Christ who said, “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” As a nation, we must collectively face our demons. To deny that disunity exists, is to give it the power to slowly sap the strength and resolve of our great Republic.

Consider the manner in which South Africa entered its post-Apartheid era. South Africa was spiritually sick. It could not truly move forward without healing its past. The government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The result of the Commission’s work was a time of national confession and repentance. Both victims and perpetrators were given prominent platforms and allowed to speak openly without fear of reprisal.

This was a gutsy move, but it ultimately proved vital in restoring that nation’s spiritual health. In medical terms, sometimes a virus has to be introduced into a healthy body in small amounts (such as in a vaccine), to strengthen the patient’s immune system against expected future outbreaks of that same illness. America has to take the medicine that it did not take in years past. Wrongdoing, whether institutional or personal, will never prevail.

Policies at every level should be established to help foster a truer understanding of our diversity in future generations. Separate but equal didn’t work. Integration didn’t work. Portions of President Johnson’s Great Society didn’t work. Portions of President Kennedy’s Affirmative Action program didn’t work.

And yes, even some portions of Reagan’s conservatism and Bush 43’s compassionate conservatism, with its roots in white paternalism, have not served the Republic well. No cardinal sin has been committed by admitting this. No person or party has a monopoly on truth or compassion.

Lost in the finer points of our arguments, viewpoints, and opinions are the individual lives of citizens living within the Republic. People are hurting and they want to be heard about their hurt. Only fear keeps us from listening to the swell of hurting voices in this country and even in this community.

We fear that we may have been wrong about some things. We also fear that we may have misjudged some people. It is our tendency to group everyone together by painting them all with a broad brush; thereby devaluing each individual life. All lives do matter and we must listen to them all. If we listen, we may learn something collectively.

For instance, what social, emotional, or psychological event or events in the lives of children give rise to a generation of young people so full of anger that they can kill without compunction?

Similarly, we may also learn the truth about why we are so fascinated with our guns and why we become so irrational when confronted with the truth of the level of gun violence in our communities.

The events of the past few weeks seem to beckon that we must “do something.” Yet this something must be more significant that past “somethings.” It must be a search for truth…not black truth…not white truth…not blue truth…but the truth.

Only truth will make America well.


The Rev. R.D. Bernard is pastor of the King Solomon Baptist Church in Vicksburg.