There is no denying that divisions in the United States are running very deep these days. Rioting in the streets is becoming more commonplace. Vicious rhetoric is being spewed from all sides. The divides between liberal and conservative, black and white, and “self” and “other” seem more cavernous than ever. Conversely, the lines between right and wrong and true and false seemingly are becoming ever more blurred.
A forum held in Birmingham, Alabama, in early March reflected on a segment of these divisions in the conference “Black and White in America: How Deep the Divide.” During the conference, which was a highly praiseworthy effort to heal wounds and seek out harmony, Rev. Michael Moore of Birmingham’s Faith Chapel Christian Center stated that dialogue among people who don’t agree or who lack understanding of others will never get anywhere without the removal of four monumental stumbling blocks: fear, superiority, ignorance and pride. These sins, he said, are the four main causes of racism. We would venture further to say that these four vices are the main sources of most divisions among peoples and that addressing them provides a valuable starting point for any group wishing to begin the path toward healing.
This is no easy task, particularly as unity becomes more elusive in today’s fractured society. And these four sins, with their roots in the Garden of Eden, are as old as humanity itself.
During the blessed days of the Triduum, we have seen the results of fear, superiority, ignorance and pride unfold with devastating results. We see St. Peter cower in fear as three times he denies his Lord, master and rabbi, Jesus Christ. We see the supreme superiority of those who champion the conviction of the innocent — “Not this one but Barabbas!” We see the ignorance of the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ garments at the foot of the cross — “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be.” Pride, which is the root of insecurity and many bad decisions, and which dates back to Adam and Eve, is the common thread in each unfortunate scene.
But as we begin the season of Easter, in the light of Christ’s sacrifice, death and resurrection, we have new reason to hope that we may overcome such daunting divisions. Despite many difficulties, we see in the Easter story a way forward. The fruits of this blessed season — faith, hope and love — are the antidotes. They are the key to conquering the sins that lead to division. All we need to do is look to Jesus, hanging on the cross in the ultimate gesture of self-sacrifice, to know what it means to move forward in love.
Bridging the many divisions in our society right now is a daunting task, but it is not impossible. By engaging in real, meaningful dialogue free of fear, superiority, ignorance and pride, we can and will begin to see progress.
Most importantly, we are not asked to walk this path of reconciliation and forgiveness alone.
Jesus Christ, our resurrected Lord, who can be found in prayer, in acts of love and in our communities of faith, is there to accompany us each step of the way. May we ask the Lord for humility as we seek to heal our nation’s wounds, and may we look to the risen Christ for guidance during this Easter season of hope and promise.
Editorial Board members: Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor