Moral Distancing

We’ve been talking about social distancing for so long that I honestly don’t recall when I first heard it. A popular term, it also is a proven means of preserving good health in the face of a viral threat.

I’d like to suggest that in order to stem the virus of societal division that is every bit as threatening as COVID-19, we need to begin practicing “Moral Distancing” as well.

Moral Distancing is the opposite of what the Pharisees and other self-righteous people do. They always are quick to tell people in other groups or cultures how to behave, ignoring the glaring faults in their own thinking and cultures. Jesus called such people hypocrites.

He warned us all that before we begin critiquing those we may not understand, we first should take a hard look at ourselves. Doing that societally means we will need to do some moral distancing.

For example, how much of the distrust of authority in poverty-stricken neighborhoods could be avoided if the ones keeping the peace in those areas made sure that only those fit to wear a badge wore one?

Likewise, imagine what a difference it would make if, rather than protecting law breakers, those neighborhoods cooperated with law enforcement in identifying criminals.

It is obvious that we must do such things for ourselves, since they can’t really be done for us. Those in a low-income housing unit have no control over how police unions work any more than police can convince a fearful neighborhood that they are safe to turn in the perpetrators.

Instead, distrust remains on both sides, ironically for the same reason: a code of silence by which wrong-doers are protected.

Morally we need to distance ourselves from evil wherever it is found, of course, but even more so when it is hiding behind our protest signs or contributing to our causes. Everyone knows looters are not legitimate protesters, and most “bad cops” are easily identifiable.

Holding our own accountable lets the other side know that we are serious, and also helps relieve the tension. For in that good faith effort, we are removing the beam from our own eye rather than forever picking at theirs.

Remember that when you have a speck in your eye, you don’t need anyone to point it out. The irritation itself makes you seek relief.

“Father, help us learn humility, and walk before you as broken vessels of your love. Open our hearts and lives to the pain and problems of others, and help us call out and root out the evil in our own back yards. In the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.”

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