I haven’t been able to write much lately. Too much stuff has been happening with my ministries. On the other hand, there has been a lot of stuff happening in the world too.
The events in the world are really complex. I have this nagging feeling that something is really wrong and that the something is some grand theory I can’t quite identify. I can identify its parts: globalization of capital, disruptive technology, post-modernism, climate change (and our national leadership’s blindness to it), nationalism, racism, expanding income inequality … you can probably name several more.
The world, or maybe more accurately, life in this country has changed and not necessarily for the good. Here’s an excerpt from my sermon a couple of weeks ago:
“It seems like we’ve lost a sense of shared responsibility for community. We have community, but it has become sliced economically, racially, demographically, religiously, socially, politically, and whatever other category we can name. I don’t get the feeling that the common good prevails anymore or that we have a shared destiny.
“Then, perhaps, maybe we’ve never had true community. Maybe it was an illusion created by the media in the 1960s and 1970s where families were intact and typically white, except for the Huxtable family. Baltimore is only the latest city to suffer riots. Remember Watts in the 1960s? Boston in the 1970s? Cincinnati in 2001? Though marriage equality has exposed major fault lines between the left and the right today, two generations ago we had the Vietnam War. We’ve had our Kumbaya moments, but our norm has been a nation where whites and people of color typically see the same event through two different lenses.”
Of course, I ended talking about the church’s responsibility to create authentic community:
“…where the values preached are the values lived, where all people are truly welcomed into the community’s fellowship, and where questions about faith and belief are not only accepted, but encouraged.
“Young-old, rich-poor, liberal-conservative, orthodox-progressive, immigrant-native, straight-queer, white-people of color, employed-unemployed, when we all come together, that’s the church. Together we bring our perspectives and by sharing them we come to a common understanding. As Christians we share a living faith rooted in God’s radical, inclusive love. We hold in common a belief that God’s creation is one of abundance so that when shared appropriately no one should know scarcity or deprivation. We have faith in the bread and the cup as the real implements to lasting peace and that wealth is measured not by how much we have, but how much we give away. We value the common good and acknowledge that injustice anywhere frays and rips the fabric of our community no matter its size. We hold fast to the teachings of Jesus and try to live them out as best we can every day of our lives, knowing that we are forgiven by God’s steadfast love when we fall short. We should seek to create this type of community. Then, we can come together to learn and practice to speak and minister together across the divides between us. We will come to respect each other, even when we disagree, and remember that despite our differences we are a stronger community together than we are alone.”
I thought it preached well, but then there weren’t many in church that day and I’m not sure how many spread my message after they left.
What I preached hints at what bugs me about the now-upon-us-way-too-soon 2016 election cycle. We’ve got serious problems as a nation and the announced candidates, except maybe for Sen. Sanders, aren’t really addressing them.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you can probably guess that none of the GOP candidates resonate with me. They’re not serious about addressing income inequality. They have no plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court invalidates the federal health exchange (reminds me of the dog that chases cars – it has no idea what to do when it catches it). They can’t figure out immigration. Those candidates who are in Congress have a lot of bluster about the debacle in Iraq-Syria, but can’t give the President authorization to pursue the military action (which would be a huge mistake, but that’s another post). Climate change is a non-starter. Their positions on marriage equality and women’s reproductive health are absolutely ancient.
Clinton, however, is just as bad. She’s doing a lot of listening. That’s a good thing because she’s listening to the people. She’s going to Chipotle and visiting small businesses so she can listen. She’s stopping in towns across Iowa to listen. Did I mention that she is intent upon listening? What a crock!! She’s been about as close to the nation’s political and policy center as anyone since 1992. Her husband was President of the United States for eight years. She’s been a United States Senator and a Secretary of State. And she is very smart. She should have some serious ideas by now, but she avoids answering journalists’ questions and she needs a passel of advisers to formulate her positions.
Even when she was coy about running, I never got any inkling why she wanted to be POTUS, except that she “earned” it or it was her turn. Her listening and not talking tells me she has no vision for this nation or even a passion to make a difference.
I like Bernie Sanders. Of all the candidates he seems to have a vision for the future, but I await the details how he plans to pay for this vision. Besides, Bernie Sanders remains an independent, even though he is running as a Democrat. I’ll give him this, he’s entertaining.
Let’s not overlook the media’s role. The recent essay by James Fallows in The Atlantic is a case in point. He observed that the recent favorite question to the candidates, “If you knew then what we know now about Iraq, would you have gone to war?” is as shallow as “Knowing what we know now, would you have bought a ticket on Malaysia Air flight 370?” But the media is not asking hard questions on any topic. Consider this one which no one asked of any candidate with regards to the recent Amtrak crash – “Please describe your vision for an integrated, comprehensive transportation policy balancing air, highways, and rails. And how do you see Amtrak’s funding fitting into your scheme?” (Note the New York Times article on our nation’s funding of rail travel compared to other nations.)
Unless the candidates can say something of substance and can forge a vision to address the elusive unsettled sense of community in this country, I don’t want to hear them.
Maybe what bothers me is that our national leadership is unwilling to acknowledge that we must take some dramatic actions to address issues such as race, immigration, climate change, disruptive technology, global capital, income inequality, and post-modernism if we are to maintain this nation’s exceptionalism. And as a people, we need to hear this truth telling. But until that truth telling becomes a reality, please spare me the shallowness of this campaign.