Monday, September 24, 2012

a few thoughts inspired by Things I Think at Phoenix Preacher this week

There has been much that has been said about the stratification of the United States into red and blue, and how there is a red truth and a blue truth, red facts and blue facts, and about how the parties lie constantly.  I've gotten plenty of spam about the "lamestream media" and the liberalism of the mainstream media and sometimes I hear about the conservatism of "establishment" media and things like that.  From the liberal and conservative side I may hear a tale or a whispering of how this or that executive order is going to suspend the Constitution, halt elections, and establish martial law.  I'll come across expressions about how the people who don't have jobs must not really want to work.  Now maybe those people haven't been in a position where they simultaneously have had a decade of skills and experience that aren't useful on the job market; a disability; and maybe are young enough to operate under the illusion they can actually do just about anything they set their minds to.  Or perhaps they have been so reliant on a series of programs in the social safety net that they may find it easier to talk about illegal immigrants ruining the American economy or jobs without realizing that Social Security has become the sort of inverted pyramid where even if there "weren't" illegal immigrants doing work that "real" Americans generally don't do there'd be a long-term challenge to the viability of the system.

Nations rise and fall and the possibility that this nation is going to fall no matter what the left or the right attempt to do may not be something that will warm the hearts of people.  Perhaps at a popular, subliminal level the questions "we" wrestle with are whether the end will be with a bang or a whimper.  It might end up being both.  Apocalypticism as a genre for expressing the catastrophic social and emotional significance of what were instigated as more this-worldly and mundane events is something we can credit to authors in the Old Testament.

But an apocalyptic sense of panic seems to pervade commentary to a degree that spills over into, how do I find a way to put this, partisan coverage.  It's like it's in the water everywhere.

I've been thinking about something I was taught years ago, almost twenty years ago.  I was taught by a journalism professor that if you're a journalist of any kind then you have biases and you can't pretend you don't have them.  If you're a good journalist (or a good Christian, for that matter) then your pursuit of the facts and the truth will entail discovering things that you may find uncomfortable.  You should pursue them anyway if your goal is that of an essentially journalistic enterprise.  If you aren't willing to pursue the facts to that discomforting level where your own ideas and convictions about people, places, and things get overturned or crushed then what you're pursuing is not really journalism.  You're embarking on marketing or public relations and while that is something many people pursue and make careers out of you should have enough honesty and character to concede that at that point you're an advocate.  Some people split the difference by going for what is called "advocacy journalism" and I suppose that must seem to work for a bunch of people.  It would seem that what is still called for is that no matter what advocacy you concede to and no matter what loyalties you profess these should still not get in the way of figuring out what the facts are.  You may not be able to figure something out because of this or that bias, to be sure, but shouldn't we be open to discovering that our biases blind us?

It can often feel to me as though the simple command to "love your enemies" and "bless those who curse you" and "pray for those who persecute you" are things that American Christians left and right often don't have any interest in doing.  It's easier to just say why Bush is an antichrist or Obama is an antichrist as though the United States had to be the new Jerusalem under attack from Satan or the seat of the Devil.  Even in prophetic books laments could be raised for terrible cities.  Even in prophetic rebukes of wicked cities laments could be raised for so much death and devastation, for a society that has fallen that could have been a catalyst for better things.  The trouble seems to be that we WANT to forget the humanity of whomever we have designated the enemy of whatever it is we treasure.  We may speak of them as though we "pity" them but that "pity" can often be circumlocution for loathing and resentment.

I'm not sure why I'm thinking of how the guys who complain the most about America going to hell in a handbasket often seem to be the postmillenialist Calvinists.  Who's the pessi-millenialist again? That, I admit, is a lazy observation but am an amillenial partial preterist so I find that my eschatological approach doesn't quite fit what Americans tend to expect I ought to think.  Years ago I recall that a friend of mine had to explain to a guy that I wasn't a heretic for being an amillenial partial preterist, it just meant I had actually bothered to read theologians who weren't American. Given the way American politics and religious tensions go reading someone who has ideas that aren't from America may not be a bad idea. The world, after all, is considerably bigger than the United States. What could it hurt?

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