Annual Review 2016
A renewed commitment to resistance
2016 may prove to be either a short blip of craziness in the annals of history or the beginning of a prolonged period of craziness (God help us). Whichever it turns out to be, “crazy” is the operable word, especially when we consider the jaw-dropping political transformations that marked the year, along with the acceleration of entropy in the media.
As we stand at the edge of 2017, I have made a decision, a resolution if you will. I have renewed my commitment to be an agent of resistance against the kinds of jingoism and certainty that I believe will lead us exactly the wrong way in this world.
These are not the qualities that will ever value or promote or bring about the common good. They will divide rather than unify. They will be destructive rather than constructive. They go directly against the kingdom ethic of Jesus, who commended the merciful, the peacemakers, and the pure of heart. (Where were they in 2016?)
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Let me give two examples of my renewed commitment to resistance.
Resisting President Trump and the politics of jingoism
Right after the presidential election this past year, I made a pledge not to engage in discussion or debate about political matters in public (such as on the blog, on social media, and in public discourse) for a long while. Just how long, I don’t know, but I labeled it a four-year fast. I’m sure I won’t stay quiet the whole time, especially if some of my fears are realized, but let’s just say I won’t be spouting off on every little antic of our soon-to-be Tweeter-in-Chief, the clown show that calls themselves the Republican party, or the tragically impotent Democrats.
However, below is a summary of what I said consistently throughout the past year with regard to politics, particularly the presidential election that dominated public attention. I did not vote for either of the two major party candidates, and was bummed out (to say the least) that these were the only choices with any possibility of winning the election.
But I had much, much stronger and focused opinions about one of the candidates, and I persist in those opinions now that he has won the office. If he had lost, I would happily let him fade away into the pages of history. However, since he won, and we now face the prospect of living with his leadership for the next four years, I will state my settled opinion and let it rest there.
If someone asks me what I think of our incoming President Trump, I now have a standard answer:
During the election I was an adamant “Never-Trump-er.” Nothing I have seen since he won has changed my mind in the least.
This year small percentage of the American people elected the most spectacularly unqualified and unfit person ever put forth seriously as a presidential candidate. He turned our elections into an embarrassing, shameful sideshow and singlehandedly set the state of civic (and civil) discourse in our country back 150 years. He has zero experience in government, has likely never even read the Constitution, and has shown little or no interest in learning about affairs of state. He has a record of being immoral, corrupt, secretive, devious, pompous, narcissistic, cruel, and relentlessly self-promoting in his personal and business career. I see little evidence that he has any actual positions or policies, and there is no reason to believe he will keep any of his promises. The very idea of him as POTUS has always been laughable and inconceivable to me. If he becomes an even passable political leader, somehow not doing profound harm to our country and its future, then I will be one of the most surprised people on earth. Whatever happens, hang on: we are in for a wild ride.
I now consider myself a member of the resistance. I will not rant and rave (most “speaking up” is highly overrated) but I will try to remain steadfast in working for the common good, and against the current regime wherever possible.
I do not want to nor will I discuss Mr. Trump any further unless something so egregious happens that I think comment is required. There has been so much unnecessary and unprofitable talk over this past year, I think maybe we’ve used up our quota for a long time to come. It is time for action, for good works, for building a better civic and political infrastructure by supporting public servants rather than celebrities and ideologues.
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Resisting the True Believers™
It has been a hallmark of Internet Monk to resist and critique these folks, and the rise of tribal groups proclaiming their righteousness and virtue over this past year has led me to commit to being even stronger in my resistance to this approach to life.
There are a lot of True Believers™ out there, or at least they are vocal and persistent in expressing their zero-sum game view of the world.
Whether it is the true believers of a particular political party or policy, theological “certain-tists” like Young Earth Creationists, neo-Puritans, radical complementarians, inerrantists and biblicists who insist upon seeing Scripture as a book miraculously dropped from heaven and who use it as a magic totem, rulebook, and hammer, progressive Christians who read back their pet contemporary social issues back into the words of Jesus and assume his blessing on every modern liberation movement, prosperity Gospel hucksters who demand seed money for blessing, relentless evangelists for outside-the-mainstream “solutions” sold through multi-level marketing businesses, the self-help industry, and religious media, propagandists for every conceivable left or right-wing cause, conspiracy theorists of all types who build complex but tiny worlds of suspicion and intrigue, and those who promote a tribal view of the world and can’t envision “truth” or “justice” beyond the boundaries of their own group and its interests.
I am just not tribal like that. I just don’t think life is as black and white as all that. I don’t think there are “answers” that are as clear as that. I don’t think we can be as “certain” as all that. I don’t think God wants us to be as parochial, narrow, purblind, separatistic, insular, and self-absorbed, self-sure, and self-promoting as that.
The way I see it, God has not spoken or acted like that. Nor has he called us to act that way.
True Believers™ insist upon a world in which the “answers” are clear, but to truly secure them we must sign up for their side without delay. They proclaim that their team can do little or no wrong and that it will inevitably win. After all, The Truth™ is on their side. Or History™ is on their side. Or The Experts™ agree with them. Or, polls suggest that The People™ are really on their side. Or, the ultimate American trump card: It Really Works!™
When questioned and criticized, we must circle the wagons and defend our side at all costs. Doubt and weakness and compromise with “them” (whoever “them” is) must be avoided at all costs. Politically correct language must be learned and spoken at all times lest we offend our own tribe or cause others to stumble. Every tenet must be held tightly and never lightly.
Remove one piece from the Jenga tower, and the whole structure will inevitably collapse — that’s what they fear.
There is no tolerance for the mess, for being in the wilderness, for doubting and having weak faith, for questioning or listening to other voices, for wavering in any way from the party line. Disagreement equals disloyalty. The slightest compromise breeds heresy and disarray. Open the door a crack and the house and everything within will become unclean.
If anything, this past year has helped me appreciate the wilderness as a place of refuge from the unrelenting “should” of certainty and the zero-sum-game perspective. That well-landscaped purported utopian paradise is, in fact, oppressive and deadly.
Jesus Christ is Lord, and the greatest of all virtues is love.
That’s about the extent of my certainty, and it’s the team I want to play for in 2017.