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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Two Days Before Christmas

'Tis the season to be jolly' or so they say. And yet, I feel as if I am stuck living in Mudville after the mighty Casey has struck out. Yes, there are things in my life to have joy in and be thankful for. But the world is much larger than who exists in my life and it seems as if it is bent on forever daring icebergs to hit it.

On the one hand, we have my fellow Conservative Christians. While some won't even acknowledge that our country still has a significant problem with racism, others won't acknowledge racism's accompanying problems such as materialism, militarism, and economic injustice. But perhaps the worst problem my fellow Conservative Christians have is that they want to tell the rest of society that without Christianity, our problems with racism will never end.

The problem with what my fellow Conservative Christians are saying about racism and sin is that it is only partially true. Yes, racism is a result of sin. But we need to be careful about the conclusions we draw from that claim. Does it mean that only Christianity can  adequately address  racism? I hope not because history has shown that many Christians have either supported some kind of racism or have been apathetic to it. In addition, we should note that, for a long time, many nonChristians have opposed racism.

And thus, not only is the conclusion that only Christianity can address racism tricky, such is a message of exclusion. It says to nonChristians that unless you get out of the way and let us lead, you cannot make any significant contributions in battling racism. Many more people will probably see the message stating that only Christianity can address racism as being manipulative. 

But there is another problem with the Conservative Christian approach to racism. That problem is that it isolates racism from the systems and their problems that might contribute to it. This is particularly true of our economic system. For some Conservative Christians, our Capitalist economic system is based on Biblical principles. Thus, our economic system has become sacrosanct. If there are problems here, it is our duty, according to many Conservative Christians to adapt to our system and not the other way around. Changing or even replacing our economic system is completely out of the question to these Christians.

Here we have two reasons for considering either modifying our economic system or replacing it with another system. First, our economic system has not changed the wealth disparity between Whites and Blacks since the gaining of some civil rights through the political system back in the 1960s. We should note that when political freedom does not bring economic improvement, disillusionment sets in. 

Second, our economic system, according to Martin Luther King Jr., is materialistic and has become a part of our thing-oriented society. This society of ours counts gadgets, profits, and property rights as being more important than people. So can our Capitalist economic system do anything else but help foster a thing-oriented society? For in such a system, the worker is disposable. As a result,  those who are left behind economically feel deserted and devalued by society and thus are more likely to be hostile to it. In addition, since wealth and risk taking are more highly valued than work is in today's Capitalist economic system, more and more people, including those who are both Black and economically disadvantaged, will be taught to have a lower regard for work than  those who preceded us.

On the other hand, my Leftist friends do not seem to offer a complete solution either. For though they correctly see the need for both structural changes and the implementation of new systems, they have their own ways of excluding groups from involvement just as my fellow Conservative Christians have. Some Leftists believe that for Conservative Christians to participate in any new kind of society, they must be unconverted from their faith first. While most Leftists seem to think that democratic decision making in our new political and economic systems can't possibly involve their opponents.

Such Leftists should know better than to exclude groups of people from being involved the decision making process of any new kind of society. One of the all-time leading figures on the Left, Martin Luther King Jr., looked on opponents as those who were to be won over rather than be treated antagonistically.  And those who refused to change their ways would have any unjust actions be controlled by laws.

But it seems that winning over opponents is the last thing on the minds of many of my fellow Leftists. For example, those of us in the Occupy Movement sought to have society punish and then abandon the 1%. We should have been trying to persuade the 1% to repent from their economic apartheid ways and join the rest of society. The fact that few, if any, did is a tragic testimony to the direction we are taking.

We live in very troubled and volatile times. The current saga of how our police relate to and patrol those in our Black communities illustrates that point. Just as too many people who shout 'Black lives matter' are succumbing to tribalism, so also do many people who shout 'Blue lives matter.' As the individuals on each side feel more threatened, they become more tribal as should be expected. And as they become more tribal, the more they adopt the ethic that right and wrong depends on who does what to whom.  And the more that people embrace that ethic, the more they become cold to the suffering of those from the other side as they believe that only those on their side deserve to feel wronged and experience grief. Such tribalism can only contribute to furthering the rift between the Black community and the police.

In the face of such problems, we need to both make structural changes that do not exclude any group from democratic decision making processes. This is true even for those who oppose the necessary structural changes. For the last thing we can afford to do here is to designate a group to be either ignored or censored. 

So in the light of these problems and others, what is gained by celebrating Christmas other than being distracted again by something else?



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