I hadn’t mentioned it, and I normally wouldn’t do it here on a blog. However, I’m backing away from the social media type forums for a time. But, January 6th. The storming of the Capitol Building by supporters of President Trump. A day that will hopefully live in infamy. Hopefully, that is the worst of it. I haven’t written or said anything about it because I’ve really been struggling with how to express my thoughts and feelings on it. I’m still not totally sure how I want to say it. I may have to write more later, but for now, I feel I need to say something even if it’s just to try and work some stuff out in my own head and heart.
As A Conservative…
I’ll start by saying that I have long been a follower and supporter of the Conservative Movement. Ever since the first time I accidentally came across Glenn Beck and talk radio back in 2001, when I was going to Bible college, I’ve been connected to the message. Yet, for the past several years, even back as far as the late Bush years, I’ve had this sense that things aren’t getting done like they should and that maybe we should start moving to the middle. But of course, like many Conservatives I felt like, you know, there are people a lot smarter than me at the top that know things I don’t. They know what they’re doing certainly. Certainly? They have teams of people feeding them information. Surely? So, I’ve just gone with it. Unfortunately, and I hate to admit it, even the past four years I’ve had a bit of cognitive dissonance. I thought, “Well, look at all the good things he has done. I mean the media is just twisting these other stories…” “But are they?… Well, I mean perhaps the means justify the ends?”
The Means Justify the Ends…
The means justify the ends is probably the greatest sin of the Christian church throughout history. This whole thing has truly given me a moment of pause. In combat, during the fog of war, you will sometimes have these moments of time slowing down when bombs are falling all around and you all of a sudden a moment of clarity overtakes you, a moment where you ask, “What in the hell is all of this really about?” That’s what this has been for me. I’m not going to say that I’m shocked and appalled by the violence and ridiculous shenanigans at the Capitol. I am a Soldier and follower of history I have seen some pretty bad things in the world and throughout history. January 6th was actually relatively tame. It could have been much worse. Will it get worse? I don’t know. I don’t think so at this point. Hope that’s the case anyway. Now, I’m ashamed to say this, but at the time I was hearing of it. I was kind of hoping it would be worse. Not that I wanted to see more people die, but perhaps a more tense standoff maybe. It felt a bit anti-climactic at the moment. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Or it could be a very bad thing. I was just wanting for this tension that has been building for years now to just come to a head. I wanted something a little more defined so that we could all say, “Okay, it really is time for a change.” Again, I don’t know. I really hope now that it doesn’t get worse. I hope that it was just enough of a moment for people to stop and say, “Wait, what in the hell is this really all about?” I mean the fact that I am writing this now is hopefully a good sign that we are seeing clarity and a way forward.
But where is the middle?
As I said I have felt for quite some time now that people of all political persuasions need to move to the middle. But, I honestly didn’t even know what that truly meant or looked like because honestly, I don’t think we’ve actually seen anything like it since I began to become interested in politics in the early 2000s anyway. And even in my historical studies, I hadn’t seen many real examples of it in American political history. History in America tends toward reporting and recording the extremes and battles of party conflicts. But then by accident…. Well, with all honesty I feel God brought me across an audiobook recently while I was in isolation with COVID. Which, I went into isolation the day of the storming of the Capitol, meaning I had lots of time to contemplate and listen to audiobooks. It was during this time that I decided, for me, “Okay, it really is time for a change.” I had a thought that maybe I should challenge myself by reading and researching things from a different perspective. So, anyway, it was almost in that moment when I came across an audiobook by the former US Senator John Danforth, Faith, and Politics, on EBSCO audio. Danforth, a US Senator, lawyer, and Episcopal Priest,
“ speaks out clearly against the religious right’s conflation of their political agenda with a religious agenda. He argues that no one should presume to embody God’s truth. He castigates the religious right for their focus on wedge issues that drive people apart and that create “tests” for religious orthodoxy. In fact, Danforth looks closely at many of the major wedge issues of our day: abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, the Schiavo case, and public displays of religion. In Faith and Politics, Danforth provides a blueprint for moving forward that is based on years of hard-won political experience and a life of religious service by calling for Christians to look to the Bible and Christian teachings for ways in which they can practice their faith day today so as to inspire trust and focus on common ground, not fringe issues. As a respected former senator, ambassador to Sudan, priest, and especially here as an author who writes openly about political life, and ambition, humbly about his achievements, and above all with clarity and reason that both Republicans and Democrats hear all too little of, Senator Danforth is uniquely qualified to call for the change we so desperately need.”(1)
Danforth spoke to everything that I had been sensing in my heart for many years now but didn’t have words of insight on. I was blown away by how much of what he says was resonating within me. And please understand, he wrote this in 2006! So, obviously, I haven’t been the only one with these feelings. Unfortunately, voices were, and have continually been drowned out by all of the extremes. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen books like this. Perhaps my heart still wasn’t in the place to receive its message. I’m not going to go into every detail Mr. Danforth puts forward as a way ahead. He has some really great insights and I highly encourage everyone to get this book, especially if you proclaim to be a Conservative Christian. Christians always seem to have a really hard time accepting they may be on the wrong side, unknowingly or knowingly, probably even worse when it’s unknowingly.
That includes me. Fortunately, as a leader of Soldiers, I understand the necessity of absolute ownership when things have gone wrong. Therefore, I whole-heatedly raise my hand for my own knowing and unknowing culpability in the political state of this Nation. I may talk about some of the things Mr. Danforth puts forth at a later date. But my main point here is that I want everyone to know that there is a middle ground out there and there are middle ground leaders out there and there is a way to get to it. I will say though from my own formulations that it is all going to have to start with LOVE.
The Sin of Racial Injustice…
It’s really hard to say which is the bigger sin, the sin of ‘the means justify ends’ or the sin of racial injustice. Slavery and racial injustice were and are absolutely abhorrent, but at the same time, the implicitness of the means justifies the ends I feel is what lead to atrocities of slavery and racial injustice and has prolonged it until this day. That brings me to the next book I feel God showed me The Myth of Equality by Mike Chamberlain.
“Is privilege real or imagined? It’s clear that issues of race and equality have come to the forefront in our nation’s consciousness. Every week yet another incident involving racial tension splashes across headlines and dominates our news feeds. But it’s not easy to unpack the origins of their tensions, and perhaps we wonder whether any of these issues really has anything to do with us. Ken Wytsma, the founder of The Justice Conference, understands these questions. He has gone through his own journey of understanding the underpinnings of inequality and privilege. In this timely, insightful book Wytsma unpacks what we need to know to be grounded in conversations about today’s race-related issues. And he helps us come to a deeper understanding of both of the origins of these issues and of the reconciling role we are called to play as ministers of the gospel. Inequality and privilege are real. The Myth of Equality opens our eyes to realities we may have never realized were present in our society and world. And we will be changed for the better as a result.”(2)
Now, I’m just going to be honest, this book had some really big, hard pills for me to swallow. I have always prided myself on anti-racist views, on my views of never looking at anyone less than equal to me just because of the color of his or her skin. I have never thought of myself as racist, nor do I now. However, I see now that I have been more culpable than I even knew in enabling the continued propagation of racism through certain, what I thought were Christian, views, and ideas that I supported. Views that on the surface didn’t seem racist, however, upon seeing things from a different perspective. I see how those views do in-fact enable and support continued racial injustice.
For example, and I say this very shamefully now, but the BLM movement. Now, I supported the protesters and supporters of BLM. However, I had a problem with the organization because they state very clearly on their website that they hold to a Socialist world view. And for that reason, I backed away from it early on. Because you know, “How could I as a Conservative Christian support such an evil world view?” You know because “Democratic Capitalism is the best system and the only one with a real track record of working.” Again, I shamefully say this, I thought the organization was just using the police shootings as a way to dupe people into sympathizing with their organization to push a Socialist agenda to overthrow the US Democracy. Yeah, I know right they were the ones being duped.
I truly believed everything was set right after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I didn’t understand the drug laws, the way they were set up, and why and by who. I didn’t understand the role of the real estate market. I didn’t understand the justice system and how many are being strong-armed into admitting crimes they didn’t commit in some areas because they couldn’t afford a lawyer since they weren’t entitled to one because they made more than $3000 dollars a year! I didn’t know they were set up knowing they would be directly affecting majority-black Americans! That’s only scratching the surface of the problems I didn’t understand! Please understand that this book was written by a white, Christian, male pastor. So, even though he is quite scathing in his criticism of the Churches complicitness and implicitness in matters of racial injustice in the US, he is still not a person of color. I’m sure the perspective of say a black, inner-city, non-Christian, single mother would be even harsher toward the Churches complicitness and implicitness.
Leave or Don’t Leave…
Okay, so if the party and the movement I have been affiliated with is so evil then why not leave? Well, what good would that do? The affiliation and the movement are not all evil. The problem with leaving would just mean the, what I call, evil prophets of the extreme fringe will just continue to grow stronger in credibility and numbers. Now, the problem is there is a small number of truly evil people, another small number of implicit ‘ends justifies the means’ people, and then there is a large number of well-meaning but ignorant majority. And to be honest the same goes for the other side, the Democratic, progressive, left. Just as there were a small number of protesters who turned into rioters that decided to storm the Capitol in hopes of the overthrow, all this year there were smaller numbers of protesters on the left who turned into rioters and looters.
The truth is both side has wedge issues they are standing on and continuing to hold onto. Wedge issues that are tearing this country apart. Wedge issues each side feels the other side is wrong about. Wedge issues that they would rather hold onto and let the country burn over than relent on. They would rather see a bond-fire rather than talk, rather than actually look at the issue reasonably, rather than look at it from another perspective, rather than say, “You know maybe I’m wrong, I’m sorry,” rather than LOVE!
So, no I can’t split ways with with my affiliation or movement, yet. I do still feel a multiple party system is better than a one party system. I still feel like there is a hope for reform in my affiliation and movement. I have hope that there is room for reform on the other side. I have hope that maybe after the past 30 to 50 to 70 year some odd years of building political division that this year may be the start of real reform. This maybe the year we start to heal. This maybe the year we start to LOVE!
So, What NOW???
The truth is if something doesn’t happen and doesn’t happen soon if there isn’t a change of heart in the culture of the US soon blood will continue to spill more and more. I know that for the sake of my family, for my kids, I’ve got some changes to make. I know for myself I have a lot deeper, self-actualizing to do, and self-educating to do. I know for me it’s going to require me using the leadership skills I have acquired as an NCO in the military to push for reform. It’s going to take preaching education, understanding, and fellowship. It’s going to take making a stand against the so-called ‘prophets’ who preach a relentlessness to wedge issues, so-called ‘prophets’ who accept the means to justify the end, so-called ‘prophets’ who are really not walking in love but in self exhortation. I know for myself I need to walk in greater and deeper amount of LOVE!