In light of the current event over the past several weeks I have been thinking, and talking a lot about the state of our country and the issue of race in particular. There are so many people with opinions from both sides and hot takes all over the web. In my conversations on race, the thing I keep coming back to is the idea of the nature of love.
The one thing your kids need to know about race is that our hatred towards others races or obsession with race our or another comes primarily from an excess or deficiency of love. Augustine in his Confessions explains to us that restlessness in his heart and in the heart of every human is a result of disordered loves that we love the right things in the wrong order. We love self or others above Christ. In doing this we are incapable of loving our selves or our brother. Augustine believed that when we rightly love God primarily every other secondary love would be loved apporpraitely because we love God primarily.
Several hundred years later Dante picks up where Augustine left off and he says that there is a right order to love but there is also a proper force of love. We sin when our love is misdirected, deficient or excessive. Dantes most famous poem The Divine Comedy is most well known for its graphic depiction of hell. What people miss in the gore of hell is that the whole force and purpose of the poem is about right ordered and rightly applied love.
The greatest gift we can give our society and our own children is to model for them rightly ordered love that is properly applied. We are wrong in thinking that the solution to race is a political solution. It may need to start by being politically enforced but if the loves our lives are not rightly ordered and rightly applied any positive change is little more than a social band-aid.
We must teach our kids what the Jewish people have taught their kids for thousands of years. The Lord our God is one we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t have to teach kids to love themselves but we do need to teach them to love God and others. Properly ordered love is God directed not others focused. The application of God directed love is that we love the right things in the right way. When we love God with all of our heart we will not have misdirected, deficient or excessive love. We will love our family and friends in the way they should be loved. We will love our country and our ethnic tribe in the order and degree they should be loved.
For Dante and for Moses the wellspring of our desires and actions is at its root love. If I love God primarily I will love people properly. If I understand I have been loved I respond to God and others in love. If I understand that all I have comes from the loving hand of God. I hold loosely all the beautiful gifts I have been given yet enjoy them more than when I find my identity in them.
If my identity is found in Christ my ethnicity is important but secondary. I can find joy in the cultural expressions of my ethnic home. I am also free to learn from and enjoy the ethnic expressions of those different than me. In identifying with the suffering of Christ I can empathize and identify with those of other races who suffer even when I may not be suffering personally at that particular time.
What will help our kids in dealing with issues of race and culture is to help them to order their loves, placing Christ at the center of their lives and teach them to proportion their loves by loving secondary things in the right way.