The Status Quo Is Not Good Enough: A Philosophy Of Grace


Being a "liberal" has turned into pejorative for me these days. It's a vacuous moral philosophy in my humble opinion, which falls apart when it's actually tested. Liberalism says that it believes in the liberty and equality regardless of race, class, gender or creed. But in reality, if many liberals are pushed, they turn out to be as conservative as anyone and will look for themselves or their tribe first and foremost. 

I see it in school segregation even in liberal Brooklyn Heights. Or in the Upper West Side.  Or in housing desegregation in this city.  The people who get to enjoy the American Dream often are reluctant give up any of it for the betterment of humanity. Only their family or tribe matters. Not the common good. 

Yes, I am a socialist and I think that's part of the solution. But it's really only a small part of it. I The bigger solution is a radical shift in values. Fundamentally I think that shift is religious in nature. This religious shift is not tied to any religion per se. I think of it as a philosophy of grace. 

What is a philosophy of grace? Grace is a Christian concept but is echoed in every religious tradition, including Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism and even atheism. It starts with unconditional love and compassion. But that unconditional love and compassion starts with one's self. That is often the hardest step in meritocratic, competitive society, which leaves so many without dignity. 

Grace then moves outward to all living beings. It says that you will love everyone whether they deserve it or not. It says that even the lowest among us-- even the drug dealer and murderer-- are given our love and acceptance. As the Christians might say, everyone is deserving of God's grace.  

A philosophy of grace is also political because everything is politics. As Aristotle once said, "man is a political animal." But that politics comes from the same place of love and compassion that is largely gone. Victor Tan Chan, a sociologist who admire greatly, has a lot to say about grace: 

"At the same time, grace reminds the well-educated and well-off to be less self-righteous and less hostile toward other people’s values. Without a doubt, opposing racism and other forms of bigotry is imperative. There are different ways to go about it, though, and ignorance shouldn’t be considered an irremediable sin. Yet many of the liberal, affluent, and college-educated too often reduce the beliefs of a significant segment of the population to a mash of evil and delusion. From gripes about the backwardness and boredom of small-town America to jokes about “rednecks” and “white trash” that are still acceptable to say in polite company, it’s no wonder that the white working class believes that others look down on them. That’s not to say their situation is worse than that of the black and Latino working classes—it’s to say that where exactly they fit in the hierarchy of oppression is a question that leads nowhere, given how much all these groups have struggled in recent decades...

Really, though, the people who could learn from grace are the prosperous and college-educated, who often find it hard to empathize with those—both white and nonwhite—who live outside their sunny, well-ordered worlds. When people are not so intent on blaming others for their sins—cultural and economic—they can deal more kindly with one another. Grace is a forgiving god."

That last paragraph that hits home for me. The liberal internet often paints the Trump supporter as the problem and themselves morally superior. As I said above, I call bullshit on that.

I realize I'm generalizing and being a bit harsh on liberals. I know a lot of liberals and I don't of them as bad people by any means. Life is suffering. Life is hard. They are trying to make sense of their existence just like anyone else. Just like any good partner or parent, they are trying to create a good life for themselves that protects and honors their families. 

But I do think at this moment it's not good enough to protect your own. More is required of all of us.