Finally (maybe?) clarity emerges from the election’s fog. Our ship of state’s sails have caught a new wind. We are only just beginning to head where it takes us. That’s the question: where will it take us? Will it take us toward unity? America desperately needs a vaccine for its most virulent pandemic — the electorate’s polarization. Wouldn’t it be great if this election resulted in a more unified country which, while continuing in its diversity, would move forward together into a new chapter?
Wouldn’t it be neat if people behaved better than you expected them to and dreams came true?
In this podcast, Randy and Alan ask each other “What three of America’s many, many problems should America set out to solve first?”
Or, if you prefer to watch…
Here are my three:
- How do we get this poison out of our systems as a nation?
- How do we forgive “the other.”
- How do we find a common vision which launches us forward together as a nation?
Alan is what I would call a “true believer.” That is, when it comes to politics, Alan is very particular and very passionate. That is why his “prognostications” a couple of podcasts ago were very specific and very courageous. I respect that. But something inside of me rebels at that kind of commitment.
I am not a “true believer” in the political sense of the word. I am a political contrarian, always wanting to look under the surface of what people say, never committing to a particular position as it is laid out, but always looking under the surface. This is not just my personality. This is an intentional decision. It is accelerated by my spiritual commitment.
What I resist in our politics is the requirement to pick one of the two sides offered to us as legitimate political positions and let them define my worldview. I cannot do that. I have a spiritual commitment which supersedes any political commitment.
I love walking in the footsteps of Christians who have gone before me, Christians who, in the Roman Empire, were called atheists because they did not bow down to the gods of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t that those Christians didn’t have political views. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe in God. It was that they wouldn’t bow to the gods of the Roman people. My faith tells me I cannot do the same thing.
My role is to be the best of citizens of this country through the expression of my faith in the public square by not standing lockstep with a political option but instead looking underneath those options, lifting their assumptions to the surface of the debate by testing their validity and pointing out their strengths and weaknesses. This is my contribution to the body politic. Alan’s is equally important but very different. His is to engage the process directly.
When I would regularly take people to Mexico to build homes in Port communities and when I was living in a number of countries in southern Africa one of the things that I noticed was it the wife was very hard there was a lot of corruption there were a lot of problems there were some really desperate things going on and yet and yet underneath that there was an ability to be joyful and ability to be free and ability to laugh to celebrate to do life together which which was missing from the United States it wasn’t just me other people that I would take them with me would say the same thing their assumption was because these people have less things less of a fair system less legality that they would be Able to rejoice but guess what they they were able to somehow tap into a deep wellspring of joy and I’m not saying your life better I’m not saying wait that there doesn’t need to be improvement none of that all I’m saying is as Americans we have lost I think and ability to be joyful together and we are so critical so cynical are so self righteous on whatever site and this is the number one problem I think for us let me put it into a phrase.
How do we get this poison out of our systems as a nation? What I mean by that is how do we get this cynicism division hatred for fear out of our system so that we can have a fresh start together. I think this is the most critical thing that we have before us and I think there’s a there’s some poetry and intention in the fact that we have to wait till January for Georgia because this is the stuff that’s in play right now are we going to just keep going from the same script that we’ve been doing for more than four years or are we going to start writing a new script Because for some reason we find it satisfying enough kind a like Twinkies satisfying enough even though it rots our souls my hope is that we will decide enough of this junk that’s inside of us work on getting rid of it and then move forward.
Number two how do we forgive the other. Again I recognize the reasons that Western society has thrown off a lot of institutional Christianity and has taken on models for social justice but one of the things that is lost in at that is absolutely essential if we have pulled us this thing off that was talking about in the first point is we have to figure out how how we actually forgive the other until we figure out how to do that as a society as a nation we are going to be stuck right where we are we’re going to continue to move forward in terms of our anger and frustration and it’s not gonna be pretty. I can tell you how I do it in perfectly for sure I need to do this on a regular basis because I tend to hold a hold on to wrongs after been done against me because I think most humans do but it’s really a three-point thing number one is a recognition that I am a part of the problem that this is not something that I am walking righteously objectively and wonderfully through life and it’s other bad and nasty people that hurt me and screw things up and that’s the first thing the second thing yes to realize that that other person yeah who has been who has been well the reason that that’s so important is because then it gives you the possibility of extending grace to someone for lack of Or inclusive let me just put it this way the amount the depth of the depth of sin that you see in humanity is directly aligned to the amount of grace that is available that is if you think humans are basically good and perfect are basically perfect it’s just that they make bad decisions in there a few really evil people then you don’t need to extend much grace it’s more like hey get your act together stop making bad decisions however if you recognize that we all struggle to do the right thing that we all have fun different amounts of us nepotism house on different amounts of insecurity different amounts of selfishness all of that that’s part of the lot human race then you Suddenly have a greater reservoir to show grace to others I’m so that’s why that was so important then the second one is that you find a way to forgive the people that you’re really upset at now here’s here’s a couple hard things related to that one is there’s a part of us that loves being self-righteous Lee angry at the other who is evil and bad and wrong it it it feels really good and it motivates us it moves forward but the problem is that kind of fuel is not fuel that will last for the long-haul and ends up eating up or inside so I like the nitro that they use I think it is and send those race car movies I know it’s just for a short burst that’s with all this anger cynicism and all the stars it gives us a short burst of energy but it’s not sustainable and it doesn’t help us to bring true change bringing true change means Side of ourselves to forgive the other and it’s gonna be different for different people honestly this is where our spirituality comes inWhere in my view Christianity is incredibly helpful because there’s a recognition going back to .1 that we cannot pay that price that we can’t make things right on our own because we’re just screwed up life and so then suddenly you find that forgiveness and God through Christ and then you’re able to Forgive the other to love your neighbor too I love your enemies even if they do not confess her own up to what they do they call still that they would own up because that’s gonna help them to move forward but you don’t withhold forgiveness for that now obviously there are other methods people have other ways and that’s fine my main point is that we have to figure out how to forgive if we’re going to heal and unite unite a Chapter
Number three: how do we find a common vision to launch us forward as a nation?
This podcast: already have so much in common! Howard Fineman: The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates and Define and Inspire Our Country
13th chapter: “A Fair, ‘more perfect’ union. We perpetually wage a war for reform. A theoretically egalitarian country. To dismantle the power of the elites who have rigged the system against the little guy.
But here is the issue: we never see ourselves as the powerful. We are always the little guy or at least a neutral person who is on the side of the little guy. I see this so strongly in our political leaders. They never own being the elite, but always try to emphasize their humble beginnings, even if they are incredibly powerful now. (BTW: we need elites in our system…
I see our problems in broad terms with very specific implications that kind of demand that we solve them in order. We could try to solve them in a different order but it won’t work out if we do them that way. They are —
We can’t solve the problem of Justice until we solve the Equality problem; without Equality there really can’t be any Justice so we should solve Equality first. Same token: without Justice, there can’t be any Hope. A lack of Justice will constantly undermine Hope. So — solve Justice first.
The challenge is, my proposed battle order doesn’t present any benchmarks we can measure ourselves against. It’s going to be DIY.
The people impacted by inequality will have to be our litmus test. When they feel America is equal — with a truly level playing field — we can relax (if just a little and for just a moment). With Equality up and fully functional, Justice will finally have the foundation it needs to also function fully.
Justice will be even harder to pull off than Equality. But, if we fail to pull off Justice, Equality will suffer.
Our problems are all dynamic by themselves. Put together they’re — where we are. The flashes of Hope we saw starting Saturday when the news networks started calling the election for Biden were easily dashed by Trump’s mostly empty threats to circumvent the Peoples’ Will using the courts he just packed with loyal lifetime appointments.
The election was, more than anything, a reaffirmation of America’s aspirational nature. We know we’ve underachieved our ideals by a lot. Yet we aspire to do better. That’s all we need right there: the aspiration to be better than we are — to really and truly become all we can be as people, as a nation, as a culture.
I’d say “as a species” too but let’s not lose our minds here. Humans are a remarkably self-destructive lot.
Maybe the guy who first imagined Eden had it right. Why on earth would we want to screw up Eden? But, now that we have, how do we put it back how it was?