The Importance of Seeing How the Pieces — the Issues, the Outrages — Fit Together

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.

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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.

 

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9 Comments

  1. ” beneath the issues, there is a bigger and deeper reality ”

    How true ! And yet to be comprehended by ‘ activists’ both ‘progressives’ and professed ‘conservatives’. The less they understand the more they speak; amazing !

    (possibly they subconsciously FEAR to see; both !

    • I’m not sure why you say the less they understand, the more they speak. The people I’m talking about have a very respectable understanding of the world, by the standards of humankind generally. I am not sure where one can look to find a very thorough understanding of the world. I do think that there is a level of truth — the one that historically has been dealt with by religion — that is not well contacted in Liberal/intellectual America. Which is what I’ve been talking about. Perhaps that — the absence of a religious-level set of answers — is what led you to speak of “the less they understand.” Even so, I think that the people I’m talking about have a healthier relationship with the idea and value of justice than most of those in our society today who are loudest in proclaiming themselves the protectors and followers of our religious tradition.

  2. “the people I’m talking about have a healthier relationship with the idea and value of justice than most of those in our society today who are loudest in proclaiming themselves the protectors and followers of our religious tradition”

    Could well be so. Public would-be ‘leadership’, ‘conservative’ and religious, is really disappointing, sadly so. I guess they ‘re wanting a following and the money so just out in front of the straying masses with just the minimum of ‘truth’ to appear legitimate. Does history tell us they seldom are willing to ‘see’ until calamity falls. Actually calamity is upon us already but credit and national debt & deficit spending allow a materialistic culture to support the dream state before the nightmare when ‘Liberty’ is completely lost and irretrievable. So very sad . .

    • The conservative religious leadership of which you speak represents, all too often, the interests of corrupt power. Which is to say, religion has been corrupted by power.

      I intend to write a piece for the series with the possible title, “What Kind of Christianity is This?” The thrust of it would be to show how the conduct of the kind of Christianity that has lately aligned itself with the Republican Party is the very opposite of that Jesus called for in the Sermon on the Mount.

      I intend to bring in Liberty University, which is located in my congressional district, and which operates as an adversary to the teachings of Jesus, and is aligned with the very powers that Jesus would have condemned.

  3. By Public would-be ‘leadership” for ‘conservative I would be thinking of Limbaugh, Hannity, and a few others. They are anti some of the things that do oppose the ‘conservative’ view BUT in a way far from the true spirit of Conservatism that is honest, fair and truthful (as in the whole truth.

    For religion I maybe intend all the modern soap opera radio and TV religion that is obviously making merchandise of people.

    I do not see my intention criticizing well meaning sincere people who believe they are doing ‘God’s Will’ in a Public Ministry but the obvious mercenaries
    and mis-leaders and sensationalists.. The apostle wrote of these long ago as “having NOT The Spirit’.
    This problem of false prophets is not new in the world but is really having a harvest time with Radio and T V.

    There are well intentioned people today doing a good job with scriptural teaching in public and we are better off for them . But the media has become a platform for the huckster religious entertainers and pseudo-conservative know-it- alls.

    I doubt, though, that an avowed evolutionist, pro-abortion (& etc) will get very far pointing out to the “Christian’ community how far they may be, in your view, from The Sermon on The Mount.

    Probably NOT a good idea.

    • I understand your point, David R., but don’t ultimately agree it won’t be a good idea. I know the moral teachings of Jesus, and take them quite seriously. They can think what they want of me, but the important thing is that they look at whether the force they’re supporting remotely corresponds to WWJD.

      If it galls them that someone who is not a Christian takes Jesus more seriously than the leaders they support, that’s OK. Something has to become a burr under their saddles, to challenge the complacency with which they serve the opposite of what they say they believe in.

  4. I generally agree with what you say here. The danger, I see with this way of framing things is false equivalencies. Good vs evil, yes. And the Republican Party, as it has evolved, is pretty close to Evil. But what is Good? Surely not the Democratic Party. I know you have been pretty clear that is not what you are saying. But I predict that, despite this, people will keep hearing that message, will keep steering you into that trench. You are going to need to constantly repeat that “Good” is more complicated. It’s the Common Good, the survival of the planet… what else? It is certainly more than the Democratic Party as it stands now. And it is also more than Not-Evil.

    • You’re right, Noree, that the Democratic Party of today does not have the same remarkable “pure case” relationship with the Good that the Republican Party of today has with Evil. The Democrats are a flawed group that can stand in for the good in a less than thrilling way because their adversary is such a pure case, and thus because in almost every skirmish between the two parties the Democrats are representing the better of the positions and therefore are pushing in a constructive direction.

      But that’s not because the good is more complicated than the evil. Both are multi-faceted and multi-directional. What makes the good side more ambiguous in our present battle is that the better of the two combatants is the more ambiguous in its relation to the good than their adversaries are in relation to the evil.

      In better times, once in a while, one comes upon something especially good that moves the world forward more than usually. I believe that the US during WW II and its aftermath (with leaders like FDR, George Marshall, Harry Hopkins, and Harry Truman), though not altogether pure cases, were more than ordinarily powerful in pushing the world in beneficial directions. At that time, I would say, the American political system had nothing worse than an ordinarily flawed political party, whereas now we have nothing better than that.

  5. Andrew:

    I am sure the issue(s) of good and evil are complicated when we get into the weeds of human behavior. However, speaking and thinking broadly, I see it as rather simple. Despite the hundreds of laws on the books there is only one crime possible, the misuse of power. Evil and misuse of power are connected at the hip. And, I see the misuse of power as seeking dominion over others, it is as simple as that. Alternatively, behavior is mostly neutral if one goes quietly about ones business without harming anyone and represents ‘good’ behavior if what we do promotes the creativity and being in our fellow humans-or so I think and hope…

    Don

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