I stared at the blank page today, and this title is the one that popped out. I haven’t written nearly as much here over the past 4 years as I did previous to Trump’s election — I don’t think that is a coincidence.
So many parts of America are broken, and the more I learn about our history and pay attention to how our society functions, the more obvious the fractures in the economy and social fabric of our nation. So much so that today, on the morning after Trump’s second impeachment trial, I am zero percent surprised that he was acquitted by the same spineless party of Republicans who thrived on his rise to power and brazen attacks on American democratic institutions.
It’s not like America has a spotless history – or even a good one. The first slaves arrived on (future) us soil in the early 1600s, but Bartolomeo de las Casas was freaking out about the awful treatment of slave divers in the Caribbean by the late 1500s. Columbus’s fleet opened these continents to exploitation and colonization, nothing more. To read American history early or late is to be confronted with a repeating series of opportunities to “look away” and ignore the ways in which people in the power structure (usually rich white men) abused everyone else, but especially non-white people, so they could profit.
I don’t know when all of that history clicked for me. I’ve got a special advantage in marrying a history teacher and theologian and critical educator (critical in the Critical Theory / critical pedagogy sense of the term). So we’ve been talking about this between ourselves and with our students for a while now. But still – I was adult-years-old before I became aware of the worst of American actions against our own people, and I discover new atrocities every year.
It is this reflection on American awfulness and why nobody in my entirely Christian stream of educators never bothered to discuss which has taken most of my reflective energy these past few years: energy which I didn’t channel into writing because it’s hard to see any value to my “audience” on this blog (nobody comments on blogs anymore) and because I’m too old for the vanity that drove younger-me to think there was any reason for me to say things out loud.
If anything, I just get more angry as the years go on. I’m livid at the way We Americans excuse racism and hatred of immigrants. I’m seething at the cowardice of the Republican Party members who happily strip power from the electorate to keep themselves in power, and who would have stood by contentedly had alt-right militia seeded within the armed mob who stormed our Capitol onJanuary 6 managed to murder the Congressional leadership and Vice President. I used to be shocked; now I’m just angry that we know the playbook yet no one seems able to do anything.
I’m thankful for a clearheadedness that’s arisen since I left Evangelical Christianity in 2016 – a leaving which occupied a few posts here in the past four years – because the insulate bubble of conservative Christianity blinded me to many issues I can see far more clearly now.
Simple things, like women in leadership, were never as clear to me as they are now. Any place where women are barred from holding power, women are endangered. Prove me wrong. Do we need to discuss the ways in which Evangelical pastors allowed so many women to come into harm’s way YET AGAIN within Ravi Zacharias’s ministry? The Church has yet to confront it’s “me too” problem, much less do anything about the sexist power structures that enable abusers to thrive with impunity.
This is a weird Valentine’s Day manifesto, but it’s a day when I have some extra time to think (as tomorrow is a federal holiday, so Sunday afternoon can be truly reflective).
I still believe deeply in the Gospel and its norms for society — for social, governmental, and economic systems that enable human flourishing and communities of care which uplift all people, not a “Christianity” sucking at the teat of power and scrambling to lick the balls of men who don’t care two bits for God or His ethics.
In 2021, I hope to interrogate my own beliefs but also to find a niche where I can work to bring change. Obviously there are plenty of individual ways I can push back against racism or exploitation, but I’d like to be involved with a group effort that has more teeth.
Something more than just yelling at Twitter.
I wasn’t at all surprised at the acquittal of our insurrectionist traitor / former president. I just hope the blatant injustice inspires people to get mad enough to do something rather than slither back into comfortable ignorance. America has no future except through owning its horrible, racist, exploitative, colonialist past and repenting. Either we own it and change it, or we fade into nothing because we should no longer deserve to be “the leader of the free world” when so many of our own citizens struggle even to live.
Happy Valentine’s Day. True love always costs you something. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can cheaply love your neighbor and get anywhere near the Great Commandment.