Tolstoy, The Fallen Man And Racism


Santa Fe 

Leo Tolstoy wrote, “You can love a person dear to you with human love, but an enemy can only be loved with divine love.” Tolstoy wrote many excellent books and, in his forties, he came to a spiritual awakening through his study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He became an outspoken Christian anarchist who believe the only authority man should answer to is the authority of God. Tolstoy was one of the early proponents of non-violent resistance focused toward social change. This movement drew from the philosophical school of anarsho-pacifism, but Tolstoy emphasized a loving God with a message to share instead of the esoteric purpose of man.

In 1894, he wrote The Kingdom of God is Within You, based on Luke 17:21, but it questioned the Czarist authority and was banned in Russia.  It had to be published in Germany. In developing the need for social change, Tolstoy presented the biblical account of the fallen man, who’s nature is sinful and needs redemption. His works present the organization for a Christian society, focused on universal love.

Shared scriptures tell us in numerous ways – Whoever says he loves God and hates his neighbor is a liar and the truth is not in him. Racism, of course falls in the category of hatred for a specific race and is apart from God’s teachings. It is a trait of fallen man which can only be transformed by a redemption which is imbued with love for all God’s creation, including those unlike us.

All the tragedies surrounding George Floyd’s death reflect the fallen nature of man. I am including the violence and destruction which has usurped a part of the demonstrations protesting the use of excessive force by police which resulted in Floyd’s death. Racism is real and we have all been close to it. It has existed since the beginning of man and is not limited to race. It also goes by the name of tribalism and is practiced within races and ethnic groups, against other members. 

While we do see spiritual leaders on their knees, praying for everything between social-justice and peace that only God gives, we also see more militant individuals, expressing their demands with anger and threats of continued violence. Unfortunately, the angry voices get the news coverage.  The one thing missing from their voices is the mention of reconciliation under the power of God, to their fellowman. I suspect many of them are also driven by hate and want nothing to do with certain segments of society or the police agencies at large who actually are committed to protect and serve. 

In forty-eight years of international work, I have seen racial violence and the hatred that drives wars, both civil and political. Racism is not unique to the United States, it is a condition of all of fallen man. In fact, the U.S. is the only country I know of who has fought a Civil War at the cost of 620,000 lives, roughly 2% of our population. Yet, after that war which ended slavery, racism was not abolished. Some would say it even grew.

Our Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s has a better record of achievement.  The non-violent approach of Dr. Martin Luther King talked of the love and power of God to reconcile all of us in Christian love which changes the content of man’s character. Though better, that work is not complete nor will it ever be in our time. There will always exist good and evil, sheep and goats. Metaphorically, from the Christian perspective in Matthew 25, it is the sheep who inherit the kingdom.

Politicians have made laws which grant equal rights, but inequality remains. Blue ribbon committees are being established to involve community organizers and leaders to discuss and solve racial injustice, but they will also fail as long as God is excluded from the process. Government is not God and often represents the ultimate Czarist power that resisted Tolstoy. It is only God who can change our hearts. Politicians and their pundits tend to separate us, if only by political dogma.

It is time for our spiritual leaders to stand in their pulpits and speak to their communities and congregations of God’s power, love and redemption plan for fallen man. 

Editor’s note: Tom Wright is a political commentator and lives in Santa Fe.