Has our culture become a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing? Do we tend to mirror the nature of our culture instead of knowing who we really are as believers in Jesus Christ?
There is much good in our culture, but there is equally a lot that is detrimental to following the Gospel. We can observe that American society is spiritually illiterate, morally confused, psychologically dysfunctional, and addicted to violence, consumerism, and endless amounts of entertainment.
Understanding how to live in our current culture in a way that honors the Lord is going to require courage and discernment.
We need some groundwork to understand how to proceed forward. Liberal is a term that has now become a household word. Before the 1960s we were Americans, middle class, and of a Judeo-Christian ethic. After the postmodern mind emerged in the late 1960s, we have drawn lines and taken sides on just about everything. We cannot agree what the goal of life is nor how to get there. The postmodern mind rejects in principal any “big story.” Essentially there is only the individual, and whatever social construct they make. Liberals are incapable of doing anything together-beyond analysis and protest itself. They seem unable to call their own consumer lifestyles into question and cannot see how they have contributed to the way things are and thus cannot radically critique it. You cannot make an art form out of critique itself; it is not the kind of deep passion or positive faith that can stand up to war, or vengeance, or long-haul injustice.
How did we get to this strange place? What was happening in the 1960s that caused the two underlying worldviews to take a sharp divide?
The dominant worldview was what we now call a traditional worldview. It was based on religious values of loyalty, hard work, obedience, law and order, and a clear transcendent goal of “heaven.” Our job was to make the best of the world by love of family, religion, and personal sacrifice. It worked in many ways and gave a lot of people superficially happy lives. We knew where we stood in the great scheme of things which took away a lot of the anger and anxiety. Huston Smith once said, “The goals postmodernism espouses are mainly the right ones, but the question is whether the climate of opinion it builds are conducive to the realization of those goals. If you want strong social cohesion, compelling vision, or in-depth transformation, you almost always have to resort to very traditional groups and values.”
Liberalism seems to create suspicious people more that loving people. They begin by asking who has the power rather than who can I love and serve. Life is an issue to be informed about or fixed, but seldom a mystery to participate in- even in its broken state.
Liberals need to find that rare ability to live happily in a broken world, and still work for its reform. It is a work that only spirituality can achieve. Mere ideology will not be sufficient to the task. Liberals seem to struggle being a part of a tainted anything: food, history, explanations, groups, churches, and authority structures. They don’t do well leading and have a difficult time following, because they mistrust power and leadership. Yet history makes it clear that good leadership is necessary for any real change.
American liberalism does not seem to have a practical goal beyond maintaining personal and social freedom. This kind of a movement is destined to deconstruct from within, as the highly opinionated individualists quickly come into conflict with one another’s freedom to think. What they lack is a spiritual center and Reference Point outside of themselves. We Christians would say they lack God, who gives source, pattern, and external goal. As a result they have become their own source, pattern, and goal.
The conservative response is usually to say, “What is in place already should probably be trusted. It must be true, because that is the way it is. The basic problem is lack of courage, and sometimes a lack of exposure and education. It usually does not recognize the dark side. Sometimes it is innocence, or a false innocence engendered by fear. It confuses loyalty to systems with loyalty to God. There are two groups of conservatives the value conservatives who can grow and change and then there are the power conservatives who get trapped inside of self-interest.
Neither liberal nor conservative is willing to carry the burden of living tentatively in a passing and imperfect world. So the contemporary choice offered most Americans is between unstable correctness (liberal) and stable illusion (conservatives).
Is there a third way; a way of wisdom? A third way will demand a transformation of consciousness and move beyond the dualistic win/lose mind. An authentic God encounter is the quickest and truest path to wisdom. It is this ultimate securing that allows us to creatively deal with the essential impermanence and insecurity of everything else. It is this ultimate changing of Reference Point that puts self and everything else in proper perspective. No wonder it is called conversion. Conversion is the only real stability because it is the only truthful map of reality, and it is always the truth that sets us free.
This liberation is the foundation of all the others. It liberates us from and for. It is the ultimate agreement to participate in all of life, to participate in the only world there is. From that vulnerable position life itself will always be a good teacher. True participation liberates us from our own control and for the compelling and overarching vision of the Reign of God-where there are no liberals or conservatives.
An amazing and rare combination of utter groundedness and constant risk-taking that always characterizes the true Gospel. Categories “liberal” and “conservative” are meaningless here. Christ came to overcome. This is our Christian vocation to follow Jesus. We must not just talk about Jesus we must become like Jesus-then God can do what God wants. We are not in control God is.
We will need to be people who live a life of union with God. All we can really give the world is who we are. We must be people transformed by God in order to be an instrument of transformation for others.
Jesus alerts us to the truth that we should, “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal,” (Matthew 6:19-21. Being more is related to developing an attitude of loving kindness, of compassionate action, mercy, kindness, and sensitivity. These are divine qualities. We must work at freeing ourselves from the radical attachment to the impermanent. If we learn anything it is the necessity of giving our attention and commitment to the kingdom of heaven.