The psalmist said that it is good and pleasant when we dwell together in unity. But not all things that are pleasant are good – and not all things that are good are pleasant.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head. – Psalm 133:1-2a (NRSV)
My usually apolitical brother anxiety-texted me the other day: What happens after the election, no matter who wins? Will there be an uprising?
There are those among us who fear conflict when November 4 or January 20 arrives, and with good reason: We are already experiencing pop-up skirmishes. Low-wage workers are getting beaten, even shot, for asking customers to wear masks. Alt-right troll farms make zealots of millions with their deep-state hoaxery about everything from vaccines to cannibalism. And not new but newly emboldened: Black and brown people openly assaulted, not just by police under pretext of law and order, but by white civilians shamelessly recording their own brutality.
There is no neat Mason-Dixon line for this new civil war. Americans are living in two entirely different experiences of reality: one governed by the fear and fight of the reptilian brain, often wearing a Christian costume, and one mediated by the neocortex’s willingness to tolerate complexity.
How will these two worldviews be suddenly reconciled? How will our own brains live together in unity again?
The psalmist said that it is good and pleasant when kindred can dwell together in unity. But not all things that are pleasant are good – and not all things that are good are pleasant.
Don’t crave a pleasant peace that comes at the price of justice, just when so much injustice has been exposed and can be addressed. Crave goodness, even if it means postponing unity.
Someday, perhaps sooner than seems possible in this moment, we will better manage our individual and collective anxiety. And the oil of gladness will run down our foreheads in blessing over the neocortex that lies behind it.
God, you made our brains: the panicky parts, the prudent parts, and the compassionate parts. Bless our whole brains and make them work well for the good of all your children, now and forevermore. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.