Can Religion Save America?
The fracturing of American culture is evident for even the most callow and casual observer. The fear driven and bitter divisions of race and class, religious and political allegiances, are creating conditions ripe for Fascist intervention and the suppression of celebrated American values.
Like it or not, at the core of much that is contentious in this nation, stands a profound division in the way this country experiences and expresses a confidence in religious faith. We have, as religious people, much to say about our divided national character, and we had better say it soon, and well because, as this Pew study ably demonstrates, the ideological gap is rapidly widening. At a moment in our nation’s history when the power and influence of religious leadership is being eclipsed, it is even more vital that those of us in such positions proclaim a moral center that is substantive and solid.
What has been touted as religious, or moral, concern in recent decades simply isn’t either. The moral center of this country is not, the greedy, selfish, power-hungry, self-aggrandizing, exercise of individualism; one that is inimical to the formation of either moral foundation or community. The reigning symbol of this grotesquely skewed moral compass is nowhere more evident than in the elevation of an apparent malignant narcissist, and proto fascist, to the top of the Republican presidential ticket, but that is by no means an isolated example. Wherever one chooses to turn one finds reminders that money, celebrity, and power are the only attributes worth pursuing, and that pursuit should be absolutely unfettered by any moral, or even humane, concern.
American Christianity has become, at least in its public expression, a morass of hatred, xenophobia, and prideful demands for a privileged seat at the political table. The present focus on protecting conservative Christians from the consequences of living in a diverse world, is one of the least biblical, least faithful, uses of collective energy that I have encountered in my lifetime. The legislative and judicial press to deny autonomy to women, or Muslims, or the LGBT community, or whoever else feels challenging to such weak spirituality, is the opposite of what it means to live as a person of faith.
There are, however, some bright lights on the trail ahead, shining the way toward a healthy, healing, and spiritually honest view of national moral commitments and vision. “We are being called like our forefathers and foremothers to be the moral defibrillators of our time,” said the Rev. William Barber II at the DNC. His Moral Mondays movement has sparked a fair amount of movement in the right direction. And there are other voices, in similar contexts that seek to change the tenor of the national moral discussion. The Higher Ground Moral Declaration is a marvelous place to begin, and it addresses so many of the concerns in our culture that are truly both morally and spiritually substantive.