The end of 2020 is just nine days away. It would be nice if, on New Year’s Eve, we could put to rest the big stories affecting us all—politics, the pandemic and racism. But, alas, these kinds of things don’t come to an end as tidily as a calendar year.
The challenges of 2020 will continue into 2021, and how challenging they will be is up to us. Will we work together or work against each other?
Some readers wish politics had appeared less in the Baptist Standard during 2020. We understand, and yet there was so much at stake in our national politics we didn’t want to ignore. Nevertheless, we sincerely hope there is little to nothing to talk about with regard to politics in 2021.
To that effect, we respectfully ask everyone to get along and for Republicans and Democrats to be their best selves for the sake of the common good. The recent passage of an $892 billion aid package could be a good start to the work of 2021.
Even so, at a time when we are so at odds over how to get things done together, it seems assured we will publish at least a couple of articles on politics during 2021. For one thing, the 87th Texas Legislature begins Jan. 21.
The pandemic won’t wear a party hat on Dec. 31, and it sure won’t sing “Auld Lang Syne.”
Even so, we have vaccines, plural. That’s more than we had a couple of weeks ago. We can blow a horn to that.
Tempering our enthusiasm, we don’t yet have enough doses for everyone to get one. Also, many people are hesitant to receive a vaccine for various reasons centering on trust. Some want the vaccine and can’t get it; others can get it and don’t want it.
And now, a new strain of COVID-19 is reported to be circulating in the United Kingdom, prompting France to close its border with the U.K., and more than 40 countries to ban arrivals from the U.K.
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Meanwhile, back in the United States, politics. Specifically, Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass the aid package mentioned above to address the pandemic’s economic toll once again.
At numerous points this year, the body of Christ—as expressed in local churches and associations, state conventions, ministries and networks—has done well in working together to get important things done. Feeding ministries are just one shining example.
We will need to continue working together in 2021, despite our differences, because the pandemic will still be with us.
Equally sad, centuries of racism will not disappear magically in the morning sunlight and bleached streets of Jan. 1.
Even before this year, racial tension was building steadily. The killing of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 fueled momentum behind efforts to remove Confederate statues, memorials and flags from around the United States. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick protested by sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem. In 2017, Charlottesville, Va., became another focal point of racial tension. The magnitude of these three events overshadowed much else related to race in 2018 and 2019.
And then, 2020. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd—their unjust deaths focused worldwide attention on racial injustice in the United States and elsewhere. People who don’t live with the scourge of racism every day suddenly became interested in understanding it. Books on racial justice became immediate bestsellers. And there were protests, lots of them.
More recently, the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries brought attention to critical race theory with their joint statement posted on Nov. 30. At least one reaction to their statement has been an effort to understand what critical race theory is and why it would be deemed incompatible with the gospel. Others have announced their departure from the denomination.
None of this will be resolved completely in time for the ball to drop in New York City. Nor should it be. Racial justice is too important not to give it proper attention.
Our challenges in 2021
We will begin the new year with the same challenges facing us at the end of the current year. Our country still will be deeply divided. COVID-19 still will be circulating. The effects of racism still will be reverberating.
Two of these challenges are entirely the result of and dependent on our choices. Our deep divisions and racism don’t have to exist. They are the outworkings of our choice to fight each other rather than to face our common problems together.
In choosing to fight each other, we have treated each other like viruses to be eradicated. This is a category error that has diverted our attention from the real virus—the brokenness of our world.
Perhaps if we regard the real virus as our true common enemy and each other as co-laborers toward the common good, we will be able to remedy our political divide and racial strife while also mitigating the pandemic.
All three challenges have a common denominator—our choice about how we will engage in these efforts.
Our challenges are significant and will not go away on their own. Our efforts must rise to the task. To do so, we must stand together.
We can start in just a couple of days by turning our collective attention to the baby born for us to die for us—Jesus Christ, our one Lord. And if we will hold our attention on him, he will hold us together through the challenging days ahead.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP. The views expressed are those solely of the author.