Every now and then you get a peek into the heart and mind of someone who is dramatically different from you. We often hold assumptions about what is going on in their heads, but on a good day, we check ourselves and realize we don’t know what they are really thinking. “They can’t be that messed up,” we tell ourselves. But then they write a nationally syndicated column and blow all our charitable assumptions out of the water.
In a now relatively infamous column, Virginia Heffernan struggles to understand the kindness of her neighbor who plowed her driveway without being asked and without asking anything in return. Heffernan moved herself out of Manhattan to escape the ravages of COVID in the city[i], and found herself surrounded by people she derisively labels, “Trumpites.” One snowy morning, one of those “blue lives matters” neighbors plowed her driveway. Her reaction is an incredible insight into what contemporary Leftism, and living in a Leftist bubble, does to corrode the soul. She writes:
Oh, heck no. The Trumpites next door to our pandemic getaway, who seem as devoted to the ex-president as you can get without being Q fans, just plowed our driveway without being asked and did a great job.
In two opening sentences she manages two insults. Heffernan does not stop there. She openly compares people who do nice things for each other to how members of the terrorist organization, Hezbollah, treat each other. Not to leave her open disdain there, she actually manages to compare the politeness of Trumpites to the Nazis in occupied France. The moral disapprobation she displays in a short column is dizzying.
Her assumptions about human kindness are fascinating. She is formed by the city and by the Leftist bubble she lives in. In the city, nobody does anything for nothing. Apparently, it is all self-interest and no benefaction. She says:
This is also kind of weird. Back in the city, people don’t sweep other people’s walkways for nothing.
She concludes, however, there must be an explanation. It must be because she is white, and they are white. “Loving your neighbor is evidently much easier when your neighborhood is full of people just like you”, she writes. Heffernan speaks in explicitly theological terms saying her neighbors need absolution (meaning they are sinners that need forgiveness), but she is not the one who can give it to them (that would take the appropriate people). She assumes they are morally evil and shrugs at her inability to forgive them.
The worldview made explicit in her column is important to understand. It begins with her notion of sin.
She believes in sin, forgiveness, and judgement. Her vision of sin, the vision of sin inherent in Identity Politics and Wokeism, is that the color of your skin (white) and your politics (conservative/populist) make you a sinner. In fact, Identity Politics teaches that this kind of sin is unforgiveable. You cannot repent of being white, you can only be made to feel shame for who you are.[ii] Forgiveness cannot be given by her because her politics demand a different group of people give it, and they may never do so. Which would be fine. And judgement is presumed. They are not “Trump supporters”, they are “Trumpists” who support the police in an almost all-white neighborhood. They clearly deserve judgement. They just barely deserve her thanks.
Her worldview does not begin with neighbor-love, but with neighbor-suspicion, and apparently in some cases, neighbor-hate. The first enemy of the Left is the neighbor.[iii] The political Left does not see murderous foreign regimes (e.g., Cuba, China, North Korea, the former Soviet Union) as enemies or morally evil. They view their neighbor as what is wrong with the world. As a result, the Left begins to censure, shadow ban, spy on, and threaten those who hold different political (and religious) points of view.
The first enemy of the Left is the neighbor.Tweet
She has sub-contracted personal virtue to the state. As a result, this poor soul literally does not know what to do when she encounters a simple act of kindness. She has voted for years for the State to take other peoples’ money and build social safety nets. All of the data points to a revealing truth: the more “red” and more religious a person is, the more likely they are to give their own time and money to their neighbors. “Blue” states and political creatures give and do less but will tax more for the state’s use. This is the act of transferring your personal responsibility to your neighbor to a government.
A Christian Point of View
Everything in this article should make the Christian realize that the worldview she represents is at unreconcilable odds with the Christian faith. Christianity teaches a version of sin, forgiveness, and judgement that does not begin with our skin color or politics, but with every human heart. Sin lies in each of us, none of us are innocent, all of us require the forgiveness of Christ, and judgement belongs to God alone. Every one of these affirmations is foreign to the Left, Identity Politics, and Wokeism.
In addition, forgiveness is not something I am allowed to withhold. As difficult as it is most of the time, I am called and required to forgive. I am called to give the grace I have received from Christ.
Each individual is responsible for their virtue or lack of it. I cannot ask a government to step in and do what I am required, by my faith and my ethics, to do myself. Taxes are not a substitute for personal kindness.
Heffernan, and many like her, highlight how the Christian (and even the person of personal virtue who believes in civil liberties) can resist this kind of culture. Keep plowing her driveway without asking for anything in return. Wave, show kindness, and live a happy life with your spouse and kids. Go to church and enjoy worshiping with others from every economic and ethic background, holding none of that against them. Sit next to other sinners saved by grace, babysit their kids, volunteer in the food pantry, and believe that Christ loves sinners. Even the ones who do not know what to do with your kindness.
[ii] See “American Awakening : Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time” by Joshua Mitchell
[iii] This is common in the rise of Totalitarianism and Communism. Entire brigades of political sympathizers are enlisted to “watch” their neighbors and report any activity that might go against the values of the State. One political party in the UK has already called for children to report their parents to the government.
Most people live around good and decent people. The act of shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk or driveway is far more common than our Manhattanite columnist above knows it to be. Plus, the act of expressing gratitude when it is done for you is also far more common. Like much of the country, we were hit with cold and snow over the weekend, and because we are out of the house early on Sundays, I did not get a chance to shovel. We came home to just about the whole neighborhood’s sidewalks shoveled. People went to the NextDoor app to express thanks, and Heather did the same for us.
Most of us live in communities with some basic, shared sense of virtue. The problem with the column I linked to above is that this minority of people (like Heffernan) have almost all our culture’s megaphones. They are just about all we hear. Most folks do not struggle with giving thanks for neighborly help, and most do not struggle to give help without being asked or paid to do so.
Our daily lives need to be reminders that it is healthy for us to disconnect from large-scale media and political influencers long enough to re-ground ourselves in normal life. I am glad Heffernan got a glimpse into the common daily life of civic virtue. Maybe, by the grace of God, it will be more attractive to her than the community she currently calls home.