Humbling ourselves in earnest prayer, for our country:
It has been hard to feel anything but anger, sorrow, and fear for our country this past week. At a time when political polarization, epidemic disease, mass quarantine, and economic contraction had already strained the nerves of the nation, an act of brutal police violence caught on video shocked the country to its core; the justifiable outrage it provoked was expressed in legitimate protests that were exploited by extremists and anarchists who instigated outbreaks of rioting, vandalizing, burning, and looting; and as neighbourhoods were torched and pillaged, policing struggled to find the balance between the ineffectual and the over-aggressive. While the leadership of the mayor of Savannah this past weekend was impressive, elsewhere, too much leadership seemed ineffectual, hamfisted, or enabling.
Attention has turned to the dangers of militarized policing, police unions that thwart needed disciplinary action, and inordinate legal immunity for police bad actors; perhaps there will be some useful reforms there. At the same time, the anger now directed at the police may well degrade morale and recruitment, and the likely pull-back from policing African-American neighbourhoods will leave them even less protected from crime than they already are. Moreover, history shows that the neighborhoods torched by riots won’t recover. As Martin Luther King observed, riots may be understood as “the anger of the unheard” but he also said they were “self-defeating and socially destructive”. Rage against injustice may be intoxicating, but it must be tempered by sober judgment, or it will turn (like almost all revolutionary fervors) into its opposite. (See: Animal Farm, Darkness at Noon, and the history of too many revolutionary movements.) A host of political and social “solutions” – left or right – will be offered that may be worse than the disease. Racism is real, ugly, and insidious. Still, I am skeptical about the sweeping claims made for its influence in American society, and the radical ideologies of anti-racism that prey on chest-beating guilt threaten bondage from which no expiation will ever set us free. Yet, those who reject such solutions cannot take refuge in reaction or inaction, nor excuse themselves from coming up with better remedies.
In the waste of our wraths and sorrows, we very much need leadership that rises to the great challenges of this moment – and a people that demand such leadership and support it. So there are things we can do, but they begin with our humbling ourselves in earnest prayer, for our country, and for those in authority in it, “that they may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue”.
O God, who wouldest fold both heaven and earth in a single peace; Let the design of thy great love lighten upon the waste of our wraths and sorrows; and give peace to thy Church, peace among nations, peace in our dwellings, and peace in our hearts; through thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
For Our Country.
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ ou Lord. Amen.
— Father Gavin Dunbar, rector of St. John’s Church since 2006