Summary: There are strong voices in Liberal America calling out specific outrages and advocating on specific important issues on which progress is being blocked. But there’s something important missing: seeing what it is that lies behind all the particulars. For wholeness to be restored to our society, we need to see things whole. We need, in particular, to understand how progress on the many separate issues that concern us require us to defeat the same source of darkness. Understanding how all these events, and all these struggles are manifestations of the battle against the underlying evil force I have identified will empower and unite us.
It’s essential, I am saying, that the we call out the Republican Party for what it is in order to turn the tide of battle.
But many will say, that’s already happening. They might agree with what I said in CALLING OUT THE REPUBLICANS, OBAMA HASN’T SO WE MUST, but maintain that progressive voices in the media and among the political activists are already doing the necessary job.
My response is: yes and no.
On television, the voices of people like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes do fill that role in some important ways. Every day, they provide highly intelligent and well-reported evidence of the outrageous conduct on the political right. They are doing an excellent job of calling out the miscreants. They are impressive, and to me they are among the heroes of our times.
At the same time, there is something important missing.
Night after night, they do a great job of revealing the symptoms of our diseased condition. But I’d like to hear more from them of a diagnosis of what the pathology is about, and why and how it gained its foothold in the American body politic. And based on that diagnosis, could they explore more what might cure us of this pathology?
Night after night, Maddow and Hayes lay out before us the wrong-doing of the prominent figures on the right. But along with reporting all the crimes, might they say more about the overall indictment that captures what’s gone wrong on the right, and given that indictment, how justice might be restored?
Putting the pieces together is important, for what we are fighting against is not all these manifestations that we see day-to-day, but the overall force — the spirit — of which they are manifestations.
That’s what I’m trying to do here, in calling out the “evil force” that is at the heart of our crisis.
From progressive activists, I’ve occasionally encountered the reaction that they and their fellow activists weren’t already seeing and saying and doing everything I am. “We already see that there’s some bad stuff going on,” I was told. “We already are in the trenches trying to mobilize people. Just like you’re doing.”
That these activists are doing important work I don’t doubt. Whether their issue is protecting voters’ rights, or campaign finance reform, or climate change, or the rights of workers, or a whole host of other issues, they are fighting on the right side in the battle that I’m saying must be waged.
But that doesn’t mean that they see the picture that I’m trying to show. They might, but they likely do not. And seeing it matters: beneath the issues, there is a bigger and deeper reality that could be a vital source of power for us in the battle against the destructive force that threatens our nation’s future.
That deeper reality is best understood as “the battle between good and evil.”
Dealing with an “issue” is different from dealing with the ultimate moral and spiritual battle taking place in our times. Issues like climate change and campaign reform – as profound as they are — should be seen as manifestations of a more fundamental battle. The more the battle is understood at the ultimate level, the deeper and more impassioned will be the response it elicits from us. And the more capable we will be of inspiring a deeper and more committed response in others.
A movement to turn America around, back in a constructive direction, would inevitably be more powerful the more the people (including the activists) in Liberal America can perceive how all the issues over which battles are raging are skirmishes in a single larger battle. That way people whose passions are stirred only by one or a few of the many issues would be inspired to fight for victory in all of them. United we stand.
It matters strategically to see that unity – “the battle between good and evil” – in that “United we stand” sense. After all, on virtually all these issues — whether it be climate change, or inequality, or voting rights, or immigration, or any of the others on which progressive activists are engaged — it is the same force, and its instrument the Republican Party, that stands in the way of progress. And hence it makes important strategic sense for every one of these issue-oriented activist groups to make alliance with whatever — such as my effort — might effectively drain power away from that destructive force.
But perhaps even more important, it matters in terms of a kindling of the spirit that makes people more powerful in the battle. The most effective activists, I would wager, are those who see how the particular arena in which they are working fits into a larger context involving the deepest of moral and spiritual values.
One might think of the nun healing the afflicted in the jungles of Africa: she is acting not only out of compassion for the specific individuals but also out of the relationship with Christ and his teachings to which she’s devoted her whole life.
The deepest devotion grows out of connection with the deepest level of meaning, which grows out of the ultimate context in which we see our lives.
An important American historical example is the the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century in America. That movement arose out of a “great awakening” of evangelical Christianity. The ability of Harriet Beecher Stowe, for example, to light the fire that made her (as Lincoln called her) “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war” grew directly out of the deep roots of her mind and spirit in the Christian vision. (“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”)
The Slave Power might well have continued its advance had there not been some such kindling of the spirit among those opposed to human slavery. But as that vital “issue” was increasingly seen in the North in a context rooted in the level of ultimate meaning, the North grew less willing to be bullied, more willing to call out the evil for what it is, and to rise to the battle. (There were many other factors at work, of course, but this was certainly an important part of how this nation rid itself of the of slavery.)
It seems much the same in America now.
So far down the road are we now toward the reign of brokenness in America –the rise in the power of the Lie, the growing power of the few over the many, the viability of political conduct that’s injurious to the nation’s good– can anyone say with confidence that the forces of wholeness will prevail without some kind of “awakening” that releases the latent powers of the human spirit.
And what awakens the spirit, I’m suggesting, is people connecting with some meaningful vision of the “ultimate context” within which the meaning of our situation is embedded.
Later in this Series, I will offer an ultimate context — involving the dynamics operating in the whole sweep of the human story — that may serve that purpose of empowerment.
At every level, it is essential that we put the pieces together to see the larger whole.
- Putting together the thousands of news items of our times enables us to see the coherent force that underlies so much of what has gone wrong in America, and makes visible a basis for activists to join together to fight a common foe.
- Perceiving the large canvas on which there is now being fought a “battle between good and evil” can unleash within us those moral energies that can overcome the considerable material power arrayed against the needed changes. And
- Placing all this into an “ultimate context” of the saga of the human project on this planet can solidify a sense of meaning and purpose for the long and vital struggle ahead.