In a few weeks, my students will return to school. I’ve been in and out of my classroom throughout the summer, working on big plans.
I worry for my students, the same way I worry for my own child. I worry about the world that they will have to live with, the world that is being created today.
I know I’m not the only one who is worried. Studies show that most of us are worried. What has become of our culture in the last thirty or fifty years?
Are we a more civilized people than we were a generation ago?
Are we more educated and enlightened?
Are we more understanding of one another?
Are we more ambitious?
Are we a more peaceful people?
I have to say that I think we are not any of those things. For whatever progress we have made, it seems to me that Americans in particular are less than they used to be on all measures of virtue. We are less knowledgeable about the world and people around us. We are more isolated and divided.
There is a reason that Donald Trump is ahead in the polls, and I don’t think it illustrates a small part of our culture. If the Democrats had a counterpart to Trump, he would be just as popular. Why? Because we like politicians that draw on our fears. We like to draw lots of lines, lines which tell us who is on our side and who is the enemy.
Lines make us feel secure. Lines make us feel safe.
We draw lines on politics, on theology, and every other issue.
Lines, lines, lines.
I tell my students every time we are about to start drawing to draw lightly. Why?
Because it’s easier to draw a line than it is to erase it.
But it is hard for students to pull the pencil gently on the paper. It is hard for them to draw lines which can be easily removed if they turn out to be wrong. Their instinct is to press hard, to grind the graphite into the paper, to make an indelible mark on the first pass.
And when they try to erase, they cannot. The line remains.
By contrast, the only line we see Jesus ever drawing was in the dust. A dust line, that could be easily removed.
And yet, most of us still make lines like we did when we were kids. We pull out our pencil and make a careless line that we never think about again and cannot erase.
I am concerned about our culture, because we have increasingly stopped being a society of people, and become more of a culture of us and them.
I think it’s my mission to erase a few lines today.
Maybe you could do the same.