Focus on Faith Blog

 

I’m already exhausted by 2021.

 

It seems like the past four years we were encouraged to go after each other.  

Throw the conspiracy theories and repetitive opinion statements derailing facts into the mix and it sure led to a confusing time.  It is certain that anyone listening/watching only the sound bites surely got a discouraging world view filled with distrust and anger.

The dissension from ‘The Right’ became downright angry and unclear to someone like myself.  The complaint was a mix of Christian religious destiny theory, a deaf eared Congress with dark motives and feared loss of individual rights.  Those who stormed the Bastille, I mean the Capitol, did so as if they were trying to take back the democracy that had been stolen from them.  And like stereotypical marauders they sure left a mess along with lots of fear and disgust.  (My apologies if I got all this wrong.)

The past four years and the last two weeks (which seemed like an additional four years) struck me with the thought of how much America has transformed over the past 50 years.  The anger of dissent was the reflection of the reality that many don’t feel like they are on or that they want to be on the ‘post 1965’ America train. 

Before 1965 America was a white majority country where there was an assumption that the  ‘white’ race was superior to all others.  At least, that is what the majority white people repeated to each other.  The laws requiring ‘separate but equal’ were cracking. But efforts were made to downplay opportunity or accomplishments of ‘other than White’.  This of course, gave more opportunities for white peoples.  Not that they were necessarily conscious of this.  They just had the upper hand and a bigger playing field.

 

The big sea change came in 1965. It came from the most conservative place I can think of:  The White House wagging the Congress.  It was a legislative revolution.  The Voting Rights Act and the Immigration Act of 1965 were passed by Congress.  In the same year.   

These two Acts represented revolutionary changes in American perspective.  Yes.  Huge sectors of black and white citizens were going to have access to voting.  Until that time, white wealth dominated voting rights in many states. It would no longer be so easy to disenfranchise the common guy and gal.  Threats and intimidation still worked. It works today too as does gerrymandering.  

But after 1965, immigration was based on family unification and attracting skilled labor into the U.S.  No longer would preference be given to the wealthy European white immigrant.  This is boring stuff except that the immigration bill changed the make up of the American population and created the rich, diverse, ethnic and racial populations we have today.  It is no longer majority white with white focused self understanding.  Some want it to come back.

Today, we have large major ethnic minorities. And the Civil Rights Act gave most Americans a voting voice and saw their votes truly count in 2020.  Some voters are stunned to see this sea change.  I guess this is where the ‘stolen election’ idea comes from.  The one who lost is emphasizing that elected representatives are not representing!   

It is clear that the philosophical, social, economic  and religious needs of many are not getting addressed.  We continue to be in the throes of an economic sea change.  Elected officials need to start paying attention. We have lots we could fight over.  But endless argument and division ultimately pulls us down.  It does not build up.  

Religion at its heart provides the space to share ideas and grievances and the pains of a transforming time.  Religious faith should unite us.  Not divide us.  Just as it provides private space for personal  and spiritual renewal.  It is discouraging to find religious leaders hijacking religion to defend indefensible positions that encourage hatred and division. Religion will not save or salve a lost worldly power.

America could destroy itself from within if it continues to seek ways to ingest deceit and lies as truth with intent to separate and divide.  I found it remarkable that in stark contrast to the divisive actions of some, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement brought people from all races together. Albeit to protest as a sign that all lives do matter and that belief is reflected in our common humanness.  Who could have imagined that!

Perhaps a similar notion of being ‘created equal’ will occur again in our political and self understanding. This will give us the tools to grow together again as a nation.  One nation under God. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all.

Pray that the rest of 2021 will provide at least initial steps to bring us together.

John Goldstein

Pastor