American society is broken. There is no longer a working consensus in which we might draw forth a common set of values that can direct our politics, our economy or our morality. We live in a culture where everyone is on their own, everyone doing right in their own eyes, for their own self, or for their own tribe with little motivation to build bridges toward other tribes. This is embodied by conservative Republicans.
Meanwhile, among liberals and progressives, among those who affirm the vision of a pluralist society, there is an increasingly naïve belief that being nice can change the ideology of conservatism. There is a simplistic attitude that underneath all the tumult there is a universal morality, a universal consensus of right and wrong, a universal goodness in people that motivates each person to actually care for another. And if we just appeal to the other person’s better angel, all will be well.
The Christian church is also broken beyond repair. Just try and figure out what the Jesus of Desmond Tutu and Franklin Graham have in common. Try and make actual, practical sense of a God who created the universe and has spun out such rapturous beauty and phenomenal complexity, and yet gets really hung up, and violently angry because Adam likes Steve better than Eve.
Try and make moral sense about a god who claims to be merciful and compassionate, yet who, at the same time, is rather ambivalent about slavery, equality of women, genocide and ethnic cleansing. Certainly the followers of this god have had no problem slaughtering the innocents whether they be the indigenous of this continent, or the innocent citizens of the Middle East. There is a hymn that sings of Jesus’ death with the refrain, “wonder working power in the blood.” Methinks far too many Christians have interpreted this as permission to drain every non-Christian of it.
My point here is that the world is fading into darkness more rapidly than we care to admit. American democracy has become an oligarchy focused on enslaving all into conformity and submission to its will. The moral values that once guided us, values that once inspired us, giving us courage and solidarity with each other, are now eclipsed. Our interior life as human beings has been domesticated: We are all materialist consumers now. Our social life as citizens has been erased: We are all enemy competitors for scarce resources.
We are broken. All we can do is march in protests, write letters and chatter endlessly about trying to connect with those we don’t understand. But what we won’t do is state the obvious. America has fallen and evil is afoot throughout the land, throughout the culture, throughout our families and friends and even within ourselves. What we won’t do is actually look and listen to our way of life. We won’t repent.
Rev. Rich Lang is the District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church in King County. He can be contacted at email@example.com
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