[I’m publishing a few excerpts from my new book Grace Canceled: How Outrage is Destroying Lives, Ending Debate, and Endangering Democracy, which hits shelves on Tuesday. I’ll be on “Fox and Friends” tomorrow morning to discuss the book.]
I have discussed on my program how difficult it was to write this book and how I fought with myself every step of the way. Grace is a daily choice. It is an action against our instinctual response of offense and we indulge it far too often. There are a number of very personal passages in this book, including the below, an excerpt from Chapter Six: The Death of Redemption:
Fake stewardship—pretending to care for one’s fellow man—has become a cottage industry. Despite their carefully crafted veneer of compassion and concern, piety-spouting politicians and celebrities often think and feel the opposite. Tyrants arrive clothed in synthetic virtue, exhorting the masses to care for one another while outsourcing their own stewardship. Time spent on any effort that isn’t politically rewarded is time wasted.
Even atoning for one’s sins is outsourced these days. Joining a rage mob is as easy as joining a gym. Make the other guy pay for his transgressions thrice over, and you can feel better about your own sin. In the past, you wouldn’t excommunicate a friend or family member over a difference of opinion. Today, if someone told a bad joke ten years ago, his family, his reputation, his life’s work are forfeit. The mob demands an apology, which the terrified offender usually offers readily, but it’s nothing more than his last words before the executioner’s swing. Instead of responding to character failings, however trivial, with genuine concern and perhaps a prayer or good wishes, people respond gleefully to the discovery of any flaw, especially in the political realm. It is a harsh landscape void of redemption and reconciliation.
This book began to germinate in my mind when I read an interview with Norm Macdonald. The comedian. Yes, the dry, hysterical Burt Reynolds impersonator who once told the longest, most ridiculously hilarious joke (it was about a moth) I’ve ever head on an episode of Conan O’Brien’s late night show. I don’t know why, but I’m always surprised when comedians get serious on a topic, or speak sense over absurdity. I feel like it’s a temperature reading: When the comedians get serious about something then it’s time to worry—like when the creatures in the woods hush upon sensing an approaching predator.
There is no forgiveness anymore, because forgiveness is not politically expedient. Forgiving someone is like giving away a wild card in Uno. Forgiveness has been twisted into acceptance, surrender, even tolerance. But if someone apologizes and is forgiven, then healing can begin, peace can be achieved, but such an occurrence may be catching. And people might notice that there is life after political disagreements, that people of different ideological persuasions can still make peace and live civilly. When a person is humanized by being forgiven, it becomes harder to sell a message of division.
So what’s the point of apologizing? No one is going to forgive you. What is the point of forgiving if no one apologizes? As if an apology were required for forgiveness.
Apologies and forgiveness are political seppuku. Forgiveness is for people who can be rehabilitated from the sickness of their wrongs and reintegrated into society. Society accepts you as long as you replace everything you are with everything it is. Unfortunately, wrongthink is an unforgivable sin, one that no amount of groveling, apologies, or excuses will redeem. There is no hope of peace because forgiveness isn’t an option. The only acceptable response is destruction, which denies redemption while acknowledging that the purpose was never about changing hearts and minds but destroying any challenges to power. It’s not even about the truth of a particular matter. It’s about power. It’s only ever been about power. The truth is irrelevant. It’s difficult to find common ground when we can’t even agree upon certain truths, but that doesn’t mean we can’t live civilly with one another.
I think people want to be reconciled to one another, but no one is willing to humble himself to the point of doing so. People are worried about image, about the personal capital it will cost them to commit such an act. Around the time of the Macdonald controversy, Sean Spicer announced he was going to be on Dancing with the Stars and Fox News hired Sarah Huckabee Sanders as its newest contributor. The rage mob once again grabbed the torches and pitchforks. CNN pundits condemned Sanders’s hire while hurriedly making a place for their newest contributor, Andrew McCabe, who was waiting to learn if he would be indicted for perjury. (Crime pays, kids!)