The warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida could be unsealed as soon as this afternoon. This after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced yesterday that the Justice Department had filed a request in court that the search warrant and property receipt from the search be unsealed. Late last night, Mr. Trump encouraged their “immediate release.”
Since the search of Mr. Trump’s home last Monday, threats against the FBI and the Justice Department have escalated to such a level that some have called for the assassination of federal agents and of Mr. Garland. As one example, an armed man reportedly attempted to breach the Cincinnati FBI office yesterday. When law enforcement officers tried to take him into custody, he raised a gun at them and was fatally shot.
In other news, the number of homicides in Philadelphia is on track to become the highest in police records. Two people, including one teenager, are in custody for fatally shooting an off-duty police officer in California.
An Indiana police officer was critically wounded in a shootout following a traffic stop and search for possible narcotics. The police department in Austin, Texas, is investigating three separate shootings that occurred within three hours yesterday morning. And a gunman shot and wounded a police officer and two other people Wednesday in California.
In 1976, Ronald Reagan said of Americans, “Millions of us ask nothing more, but certainly nothing less, than to live our own lives according to our values—at peace with ourselves, our neighbors, and the world.” Five decades later, we wonder if such peace is so elusive as to be impossible in our divided, violent nation.
Five reasons we go to war
It has been estimated that since America’s birth in 1776, our nation has been at war for 93 percent of our existence. Each year, more than 1.6 million people around the world lose their lives to violence.
In Why We Fight: The Roots of War and The Paths to Peace, Prof. Christopher Blattman of the University of Chicago explains the five main reasons why groups—including nations, gangs, sects, and factions—resort to armed conflict:
- Unchecked interests: people who choose to go to war are not accountable to others in their group or expect to gain personally from conflict.
- Intangible incentives: violence is viewed as the path to freedom, status, vengeance, or dominance.
- Uncertainty: a group is unsure of its enemy’s strength or resolve and chooses to initiate violence.
- A commitment problem: fear that a rival is growing too powerful coupled with distrust in any commitments made to future peaceful relations.
- Misperceptions: we are overconfident in our abilities and demonize our opponents, making peaceful negotiations difficult.
Dr. Blattman then shows that peace has historically been advanced through interdependence among groups and nations, checks and balances that hold leaders accountable, the enforcement of rules and law, and interventions before violence escalates.
Of course, if these paths to peace were ultimately effective, they would have ended conflict and violence. Today’s news proves that a deeper, more transformative solution is ultimately required.
“The whole philosophy of hell”
In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon named Screwtape writes to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood: “The whole philosophy of hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses.
“Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition.’”
Screwtape is right. This “philosophy” has infected our fallen world from Cain and Abel to the present, setting us against each other in a zero-sum battle for advancement and conquest. As I noted earlier this week, our democracy has likewise become so riven by partisan politics that we see our nation through “red” or “blue” lenses that color everyone and everything in partisan hues.
The good news is that there is a countercultural way forward available to each of us today.
An antidote to the violence of our day
This week, we’ve identified persistence, discernment, courageous compassion, and urgency as essential traits for Christians who are making a transforming difference in their culture. Let’s close the week by adding humility to our list.
The prophet told his nation what the Lord requires of his people: “To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). The third empowers the first two: the more we submit ourselves humbly to God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), the more he enables us to “do justice” in the world and to “love kindness” with others.
If we agree with John the Baptist that “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), Jesus then continues his earthly ministry in and through our lives. If we surrender the throne of our hearts to him today, he manifests in us the “fruit” of his Spirit—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23)—each of which is an antidote to the violence of our day.
In this way, God uses our influence to engage our culture redemptively for his glory.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself”
The best way to stop seeking my way is to seek God’s way. As Rick Warren noted in The Purpose-Driven Life, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
The English Puritan minister John Flavel (1627–91) observed, “They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud.”
Do you truly know God—and yourself—today?
NOTE: For more on experiencing and sharing the transforming love of God, please see my latest website article, “Family reunited with message in a bottle written by their late son.”