November 5, 2020
The election of 2020 remains a major event, regardless who is eventually and officially proclaimed the winner. Much more than the election of 2020, however, we are clearly in an historic transition, with socio-cultural and political change not just in the USA but everywhere around the globe. It comes too often with violent eruptions.
In this national and global transition, we really have to start working together to change the conversation and change course. We need new directions for church and civil society. We need confidence, courage, and creativity. It has not yet happened but we can and will overcome Covid-19. Just in time for climate change: our next big challenge?
At home in the USA, we have urgent issues: health care, jobs, financial security, and civil unrest. We need to reassure people, deflate violence, and conquer ignorance and falsehood. We need to reaffirm our commitment to truth and honesty. We have had enough empty political rhetoric and headlined falsehoods.
Changing the conversation and charting a new direction means moving beyond self-centered “my group” expediency to a more genuine human community and a safe and healthy society for all citizens. What we used to call “the common good.” It means looking at life and talking about life in new ways. It means moving beyond racism and hateful behavior. It means humbly and honestly acknowledging that big changes are reshaping our lives, our environment, and our understanding.
What are my conversation and course change topics right now?
POLARIZATION: The 2020 election has revealed the alarming depth and extensiveness of societal polarization. Well, we need to seriously reflect, converse, and change course. We are all part of formal and informal interlocking institutions: schools, neighborhoods, churches, companies, families, and political parties. Each comes with personal and group collaborative roles and responsibilities. Polarization destroys collaboration and could very well be the national dysfunction destroying our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness…Either Trump or Biden will win but with unresolved polarization America’s deepest problems will remain.
A WARNING: It has happened in highly polarized (and “civilized”) countries that conversation stoped, collaboration ceased, and one group led by a cultic authoritarian dictator, warning of chaos, assumed control. Patriotism became unquestioned obedience and loyalty to the dictator. The “disloyal” were set aside and one way or another eliminated.
WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICA: Are we experiencing the “end of white Christian America”? Probably. Should we be anxious about this? I don’t see why. It is not the end of Christianity. It is not the end of America. It is reality. Now how do we talk about it? How do we live with the new reality?
AMERICAN DIVERSITY: Americans in the United States are more racially and ethnically diverse than in the past. They will be even more diverse in the coming decades. By 2055, the US WILL NOT have one single racial or ethnic majority, and “white people” will be a minority group. It may come as a surprise to some observers; but Asia has already replaced Latin America (including Mexico) as the biggest source of new immigrants to the United States. The US Asian population grew 72% between 2000 and 2015 (from 11.9 million to 20.4 million), the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group.
LGBTQ: One of my correspondents wrote recently that “gays are destroying American society and thanks to them family life is disintegrating.” Well that is one way of looking and speaking. What, however, would gay people say about American society today? How would they speak about family life? If we can shift our conversation from quick condemnation to dialogical comprehension, we might also become a bit more understanding and supportive of men and women living and struggling in a variety of family situations. Now even Pope Francis sees the importance of same-sex civil unions, because “They are children of God.” The Catholic Church has a lot of catching up to do. It is still officially anti-gay and yet thousands of the church’s priests are gay. By the way, that includes a lot of bishops.
INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND RESPECT: Another important element in changing course and changing our conversation must be inter-religious dialogue. As we chart a new course, we need to start building bridges with Islam. By 2050, the number of Muslims in our world will nearly equal the number of Christians. In our churches, we can and should have Muslim/Christian discussion groups and adult education programs. Why not have an adult ed. presentation on “Understanding the Qur’an: Islam’s Holy Book.” Let’s not forget Judaism either. Antisemitism is on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic. Muslims, Jews, and Christians are brothers and sisters in the same Abrahamic tradition. With one God who is Father and Mother of all.
CHURCH LEADERSHIP: We need a change of course in church leadership. Protestant theologian and professor of sociology at the University of Giessen in Germany, Reimer Gronemeyer, recently concluded that Protestant and Catholic Churches will only survive amid the multiple crises currently gripping Christianity and the world to the extent that they open up their leadership to non-white, non-male people. He stressed that the church will have a future “only if it frees itself from the rule of old white men.” I thought immediately about the old men at the Vatican and the Roman Catholic college of cardinals…
Well enough thoughts for today. (I am still pondering the election.) I have quite a list of topics for change, but these are at the top.
Even if it is hard to see it right now, a new age is being born. Now is the time to look ahead with courage and creativity.
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time we stand up for an ideal, or act to improve the lot of others, or strike out against injustice, we send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” — Robert F. Kennedy, 1966