“O Lord…you have made human beings a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:5) These words can be found in the heart of the Bible—the Book of Psalms—and were written by a poet over 2,500 years ago. We do not know much about that author, except that he possessed an enormously high opinion of humanity. Yet following the recent acts of violence in Las Vegas, and other horrific attacks in recent months around the world, I wonder whether we might be developing an alternative, and less generous, view of the human capacity for goodness.
As a person of faith, I am not naïve about the harm that human beings can inflict on one another and the creation. But as a pastor, I believe it is the work of my life to develop and encourage our God-given ability to heal, to devote our resources and energy for the common good, and to change those things that contradict the movement of God toward a world of greater compassion. So I pray my prayers for healing on behalf of all those who suffered violence in Las Vegas, knowing that such recovery is only barely underway and will require years of prayer and effort to unfold. And alongside my prayers for those who need consolation, I will work to sustain my faith in humanity, to see in people across the world a God-given orientation towards peace and good will.
I invite you to set aside the news from time to time, and sit down with the author of Psalm 8, the one who brings us another kind of news, that we have been made a little lower than God, and are crowned with glory and honor. And if you seek a more modern witness to this legacy of faith, I commend to you these words by Howard Zinn, an American historian with a heart for hope:
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something, if we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”
Yours in Christ,