There is a distressing phenomenon I’ve seen both in myself and other white evangelicals; I call it the “We’re Good People” syndrome.
The phrase “We’re Good People” is rarely spoken out loud, but here’s how this works:
Let’s say our tribal leaders – Congress, the President, pundits, opinion-makers – pass a terrible bill, sign a cruel EO, setup an awful policy, put forth a horrible opinion, or have a particularly bad moral failing. Conversely someone outside of our tribe points out an injustice or atrocity committed by our tribe, either currently or in the past.
The discussion that ensues has as its unspoken backplane the assertion that “We’re Good People”™
For example, supporting the administration’s policy of separating toddlers from their parents at the border doesn’t make us uncompassionate [Because We’re Good People].
Actively supporting, voting for, and even admiring rogues and scoundrels is fine [because We’re Good People].
Being insensitive to systemic racism is fine. We “know” why NFL players are kneeling during the anthem, and it’s not for the reason they claim: protesting police brutality against people of color. No, we know they really just hate the flag and our brave servicemen and women. We know this [Because We’re Good People].
Being white in a majority white country hasn’t given us any advantages, we say to ourselves. We’ve had to work for everything we’ve gotten and everyone has the same opportunities in America, right? This is true [Because We’re Good People].
See how it works?
It’s strange. As believers our theology warns us that outside of Christ we are not good people, and that even as believers we have to guard our hearts against the deception that lays there still and guard our minds and souls against the flesh which wars against our spirits. Of all people we should not fall for the We’re Good People lie.
I still don’t have this figured out, but I see it all the time. I’m learning to recognize propaganda when I hear it, and We’re Good People is a pernicious form of self-propaganda, a lazy form of (usually unspoken) argument, and an enemy of clarity.