Who Are You?

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2017 by jcwill5

identity-792366_640I believe that who we are flows out of whose we are.

All identity comes from belonging.

If this insight is true, then the chief question of our existence will be:  to whom or what do we belong the most?

Some will answer a physical characteristic.

Gender determines your identity and sexuality defines you.  Therefore, sex and gender wars explain everything.

Race determines your identity and skin color defines you.  Therefore, racial conflicts explain everything.

Nationality determines your identity and your country defines you.  Therefore, your national origin explains everything.

Family determines your identity and your parents define you.   Therefore, family ties explain everything.

Some will answer with a societal classification.

Class determines your identity and your social status defines you.  Therefore, class divisions explain everything.

Income determines your identity and your paycheck and job define you. Therefore, economic disparities explain everything.

Culture determines your identity and your shared values and perspectives define you.  Therefore, cultural biases explain everything.

Individuality determines your identity and only you defines you.  Therefore, our own uniqueness explains everything.

Still others answer with a self-chosen activity.

My purchases define me, and I am what I own.  Therefore, abundance or lack of possessions explain everything.

My achievements define me, and I am what I achieve.  Therefore, success or failure explains everything.

My politics define me, and I am what I use power to progress or conserve.  Therefore, our ideologies explain everything.

My art defines me, and I am what I listen to, watch, sing, play, write, build, or create.   Therefore, our entertainments explain everything.

On a darker note, we can have:

My addictive substances, experiences, and relationships define me, and I am what I use.  Therefore, our compulsions explain everything.

My wrongs define me, and I am what I violated.  Therefore, our punishments explain everything.

The wrongs done against me define me, and I am how I’ve been violated.  Therefore, our victimization explains everything.

My complaints define me, and I am what I object to and protest against.   Therefore, our dissatisfaction explains everything.

On a biblical note, we all this to contend with:

My sin nature within defines me, and I am a slave of sin.   Therefore, sin explains everything.

My religious affiliation defines me, and I am that label.   Therefore, being inside or outside the group explains everything.

My religious morality defines me, and I am whatever level I’ve reached on the pyramid.   Therefore, being more moral or less moral explains everything.

My idol defines me, and I am a worshipper of this person, place, activity, or thing.  Therefore, I am becoming like whatever I worship.

The Surprising Way Out

Here’s the twist:   all of these identities are part and parcel of this current world order, this fallen universal regime–the tired old creation populated by the same old humanity.

Light a supernova of illumination comes this truth:  the only way out of these imprisoning identities is to find our identity in belonging to Someone outside of it all and infinitely beyond it all.

It’s in simply being His.

It’s in belonging to Him first, foremost, and ultimately in a way that overshadows and transcends all of our other belongings.

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” says the ancient prophet.

“Abide in Me and I in you,” says Jesus.

Dividing Then Joining

And now the Cross of Christ makes terrible sense:   God had to find a way to sever us from our sin and all of its belonging, to divide us from the monster living within us, and join us to Himself in a brand new way.

He did so by joining us in our sin to Christ on the Cross, and putting it and us to death in Him.

When He died, we died with Him and all of our old ties, connections, and belongings died with Him.

When He rose, we rose up with Him a new person with a new identity–joined to Him forever and in union with Him perfectly.

All of the identities of this current life, everything based on the characteristics, classifications, and choices of our old nature, are invalidated and inoperative.

We belong body and soul to Him.

He and His choice alone defines us.

His love alone and being His beloved defines us.

By worshiping Him, we are becoming more and more like Him.

Being a new creature in Christ defines us.

This is the blessedly simple, and shockingly upsetting, answer of the biblical, born-again faith to questions of identity!

The Real Revolution

Hopefully you now understand why Christians are the most persecuted group on earth, why dictators and ideological one party states fear us so frantically and loath us so irrationally.

All the belonging and identities these bullies use to maintain their grip on power are rendered irrelevant by what God has done for us on Good Friday and Easter!

Not even death, which merely divides the soul from the body, can reverse what God has done!

The powers that be and all the identities they hawk are now irrelevant and utterly insignificant in the face of heavenly invasion now upon them.

The revolution of the new identity in Christ, the ultimate belonging to God, is the most subversive, most revolutionary movement to ever hit planet Earth!

All our old ties and present system-based allegiances are superseded and trumped by the supreme Christ and our relationship to Him.

It’s the only solution!

America: One Big Alcoholic Family

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2017 by jcwill5

shutterstock_620961851I’ve written before how America is like an alcoholic family.

Tell-tale Signs of an Addicted Society

In alcoholic family or society, instability reigns.

The addiction warps everyone’s thinking, emoting, and relationships.

The result is that the world is divided into villains and victims.

And punishing villains and pampering victims is the mission.

So the big arguments are about who is the villain and who is the victim.

We become consumed with a fight over who deserves to be blamed and shamed, and who needs the protection and championing.

Narcissism and co-dependency thus increasingly mark us as individuals and as groups.

We are left with a choice between a calloused disregard and the punitive opposite of compassion, or an obsessive indulgence and a sick protection from deserved consequences.

Nobody will take personal responsibility and everyone blames somebody else for all their misfortunes.

Sound familiar?

As addictions escalate in intensity and number through the aid of technology, the politics and social interactions of more and more people are addition-fueled.

As their addiction “age-of-onset” begins earlier in life and reaches a hard-core phase earlier in life, the intensity level of our conflicts grows exponentially.

Our emotions rage at higher levels, are less often resolved with greater difficulty, and catharsis becomes our new normal–which fuels even deeper addiction and sets off the next round of conflicts.

It takes less and less offense, irritation, and surprise to knock us off our stride, to get an intense reaction out of us, and to see us erupt into relationship-destroying outbursts.

We become both helpless and far more harmful.

We leave a wake of wounded spirits, broken relationships, and dead communities behind us.

We keep beating the drum of our cause, our outrage, our victimhood, until the room clears and nobody is listening to us anymore but the self-justifying echo chamber of our own mind.

Not Even Hiding Helps

There’s also a third group:  the hiders and runners.

They are forced to listen and feel trapped in the “hell-on-earth” family.

They just want to escape the toxic family and leave it in the rear view mirror.

These hiders withdraw and retreat into studied apathy and isolation, biding their time until they can make good their physical escape.

But they, too, are scarred by the intractable, abusive conflicts of their alcoholic family of origin.

Escape and escapism that numbs the soul and withdraws them from positive society mark their lives.

The Way Forward

Although the Recovery movement isn’t perfect, and has strayed somewhat from it’s theocentric roots, there are some little slogans that counter-act the toxicity of alcoholic thinking and feeling.

The trio of short sayings are easy to memorize and capture the surrender of control necessary to maintain sobriety in the face of life’s upsets.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

“One day at a time.”

“Let go, let God.”

In the Serenity prayer, we are taught to differentiate between what we can do something about, and what we are powerless over.

We humbly ask God for daily wisdom to show us the things we cannot fix that are outside of our control, and those we can take responsibility to improve, heal, and redeem.

In releasing control over the things we never had control over, we have energy to address those things about our selves that sorely need our attention.

We give up on blaming and accusing, and we begin to take responsibility for our own choices and to make amends for our wrongs.

We let go of the uncontrollable stuff, and let God handle it because He, not we, is God.

We get off of the throne, and yield the chair to Him.

And we do this every single day, one day at a time, moment-by-moment.

The Payoff

If we practice this trio of daily habits, we’ll find increasing peace on the inside, avoid embroiling ourselves in resentments and impossible fights, and enjoy new positive outcomes and healthy relating.

We’ll avoid relapses into our idolatries, and will be less able to be triggered and, hence, controlled by events and other people.

We’ll become part of the building crew, and get off of the wrecking crew, in our groups and relationships.

We’ll become resilient and are able to suffer more and sacrifice more for worthy goals that take self-denial and perseverance to fully realize.

These slogans are restatements of time-honored truths taught in the Bible:  daily surrender of one’s will to God, taking each day as it comes under His care, and resting in the peace of His good reign so we can focus on our own responsibilities under God.

Is this not what we need most as individuals, and as a society, right now?

There is a solution.

Risking Love…Again

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2017 by jcwill5

i-don-t-know-if-you-know-who-you-are-until-you-losEvery child learns to not touch a hot stove on the other side of disregarding warnings and touching it.

For our own protection, pain-avoidance has been hard-wired into our nature as human beings.

And so, from a child’s world view, good choices lead to pleasant outcomes, and bad decisions lead to unpleasant ones.

More Complicated

But life is more complicated than this one-dimensional childish perspective.

Some choices feel really great at first but end really, really badly.

For example, initial usage of a mind-altering, mood-altering substance that leads to addiction.

Other choices don’t feel so good at first but end well.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet come to mind.

Mixed Outcomes

Still other choices result in both good and bad outcomes, pleasant and unpleasant realities, and joyful and painful experiences.

The choice to love deeply within the bonds of commitment and loyalty is one of them.

Marriage and friendship are high risk, high reward activities.

So is following God.

So is knowing and being known in community.

So is leading and giving oneself in service to a community.

A Greater Pain

The greater our love for our beloved, the more deeply they lie in our hearts and the more gravely they can hurt us if things go wrong.

It’s what makes abandonment and rejection so terribly painful.

It’s what makes battles for control, irreconcilable differences, and intractable arguments within close relationships so painful.

It’s what makes failing and hurting those we love so painful.

All of us have been wounded by love gone wrong, by toxic intimacy.  And have wounded others.

All of us long to live in a world where the people closest to us will be good to us, and we to them–forever and ever.

Our Monsters

Because we are fallen creatures with sin natures, our hard-wired selfishness poisons every good relationship.

We each carry a monster within us.

Wounded pride and bitter anger erupt to do great damage not only to them, but to us as well.

It’s why we all carry many wounds from being used, being discarded, being betrayed by those who should have loved us enough to be good to us.

What We Need Most

We need a healing kind of love that binds up our wounds, that loves us at our most guilty places, and that frees us to love again on the other side of pain.

We need a redemptive kind of love that softens our hard, self-protective, love-blocking hearts with undeserved, unexpected kindness.

We need a powerful, righteous kind of love that empowers us to fight against the evil impulses of our selfish sin nature and which overcomes our self-justifying, abusive, wounded pride.

We need someone far greater than we are to do for us and do in us what we cannot do for ourselves.

We need the love of God.

We need the cross of Christ.

We need God to die in our place out of a grace-giving love for us as sinners.

We need Him to die to break the domination of sin over us and to be resurrected to bestow a new, good nature within us.

Called to Risk Again

I met with a group of leaders last night, and it was clear that many of us bore the scars from loving people who later turned against us and walked away from us in emnity.

It was painfully clear that we were carrying the pain of the accumulated loss of these lost relationships, broken friendships, and estranged intimates.

And it was also painfully clear that, for us, the choice to love freely again and to lead confidently again and to risk knowing and be known again in community was a huge struggle.

It was also painfully clear that Christ was gently calling us all to do what He Himself had to do–to love and lead those who had hurt Him and would hurt Him again.

Without losing the wisdom of experience, it was time for us all to risk again and, if necessary, to suffer again with eyes wide open.

The Time is Now

It was time for us to recognize that, in this life, the scales won’t always balance and the good outcome of this leadership suffering might be deferred until we stand in His presence.

It was time to reaffirm our faith that He will more than make good any loss, any suffering, any sorrow that we endured for His sake to lead His people.

Love–God’s kind of love–is forever bound up in suffering on this side of the Cross.

It’s one thing when this has never happened to us and we are blind-sided.

It’s quite another when we go into leadership with our eyes wide open, after counting the cost of agony, and choose to love and lead them anyway.

What it means is we surrender ownership of our agony over to Him, and let Him love us in our most wounded spots over and over and over until we are restored and filled with His love again.

There is a solution!

Cause-aholism and Outrage-aholism

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2017 by jcwill5

The hardest people to deal with are those who take up the offenses of others and who are on the perpetual warpath.

Self-Appointed Avengers

They are found in families, in workplaces, and, especially, in political venues.

They can be on the Right or the Left–resistant to all change or pushing every change.

“You’ve hurt my friend and you will pay for it!”

“You’re my group’s enemy, and I will punish you and everyone like you!”

They are compelled to be the ultimate equalizer of all injustices, the advocate of all underdogs, and the hero in every morality tale.

Offense their drug of choice, their intoxicating high, their religion and their god.

Strangely, most people are able to settle their hurts and offenses directly with their offending parties.

But outraged third-parties who represent, advocate, agitate, and serve as avenging angels on behalf of hurt individuals or oppressed groups–rarely if ever will they be able to settle their disputes.

Permission to Do Anything

What’s worse, we give ourselves permission to be in a state of permanent malice towards those they have pre-judged as the guilty party.

It begins to consume us from within, eating out our souls like acid.

We’ll give ourselves permission to do whatever has to be done to obtain justice–including the commission of injustices, abuses, and outright harm.

As long as our cause is just in our minds, we can do it.

In fact, we MUST do it or else we too are just as guilty.

Ordinary, normal ways to resolve identified personal or group injustice fail to work.

The “others” who are, by definition, part of the wrong group simply won’t agree with our views.

They won’t cooperate with our plans and take our prescriptions.

They work against our desired outcomes and throw up roadblocks to our ideas of “justice”.

Ultimately, they must be forced to comply and made to be just.

They must be put into closets, silenced, and legally hemmed in so they can do no harm.

If that fails, we take their money away, take their liberties away, and, if necessary, take their lives away.

We all know how this works because we have all done this to greater or lesser degrees.

The Most Dangerous Person of All

It’s why the most dangerous person isn’t the person who knows they are doing what’s wrong.

The most dangerous person is the person who is absolutely convinced they are always in the right and therefore free to use any means necessary to right the wrongs they see.

We will say horrible things about people who “deserve it”, and have no empathy.

We will do terrible things, and then pat ourselves on the back and congratulate each other to great, validating applause.

It’s why the Nazi’s thought they were entitled to commit genocide against those they blamed.

It’s why the communist dictatorships had their Gulags, their man-made famines, their cultural revolutions, etc.

It’s why the Trump-loving populists and the outraged anti-Trump progressives are so over-the-top right now.

They are each consumed with humiliating the other and raging in response to fresh outrages.

The Protection of Absolutes

Strange as it might sound, the greatest protection against this unholy tendency we all have to take up the offenses of others and avenge them is…. absolute values given by an infinitely righteous God.

If we hold to the belief that the ends justify the means, there will be no stopping us, no check on our unchecked, self-satisfying need to turn the tables and oppress the oppressor.

But if we, too, are held to the same unchanging, universal standard of righteousness and will be judged by God accordingly, then two things happen.

The first is it’s God’s ultimate problem to balance the scales of justice and punish all injustice done by anyone, anywhere.

The temptation to repay evil for evil when we are hurt can be resisted.

The temptation to denounce others for the same bad attitudes, abuses, and outrages that we ourselves do can be bravely faced and owned.

Which counters double-standards and hypocrisy.

We never have to do His job for Him, freeing us from that terrible responsibility of making heaven on earth and unbearable burden of redressing all evil.

We find freedom in entrusting our own unfixable injustices to Him and in entrusting our corporate hurts to Him as well.

We can stop trying and failing to play the impossible role of messiah, hero of the story, avenger of all wrong.

We can begin to deal with our own unresolved soul pain instead–bringing it to God for soul surgery, post-op healing, and Cross therapy.

Strangely, this frees up our soul to make space in our hearts for the actual human beings all around us–to be actively good to them, to exercise self-control over our own evil impulses that would harm them, etc.

Energy for Goodness

And this energy for good can do more good than demonstrations and riots and lawsuits and election campaigns and Facebook advocacy ever can–without all the bitterness and soul-poisoning.

The second is we are freed from being manipulated and controlled by those who appeal to anger and offense.

If power brokers can no longer use anger to evoke reactions and offenses in the masses, they win no elections and lose their donations and gain no hearing.

Being secure in the love of God as redeemed sinners, we can view even our enemies with compassion and reach out with mercy to them on their day of trouble.

The cycle of offense and counter-offense, harm and counter-harm, injustice and counter-injustice is broken.

Our society takes one step back from polarization and demonization.

One more relationship is drained of anger, one more trigger is broken off, one more button becomes harder to push.

There is a solution!

Through Trust and Gratitude

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by jcwill5

gratitude-wordleHenri Nouwen poses a question to justice-loving religious people that’s well work asking:

How do we leave the land of our anger?

Entering the Land of Anger

It’s a good question because the higher our morality, the more keenly we will feel the pain of wrongdoing, evil, unfairness, injustice, etc.

And the deeper our awareness of violation, the more anger we will feel as the violations pile up and as the cost of unresolved oppression, injustice, and evil goes up, up, up.

Ironically, those with the highest awareness of justice and the highest love for what’s right, good, and fair often end up being the most angry.

And because it is beyond humanity’s power to rectify, heal, and reverse all the unresolved injustices and wrongs of the world, we are left with a pile of unresolved injustice and incurable pain.

We become angry people.

We have entered a land from which there is no natural escape because we take our angry self with us wherever we go.

The Vicious Circle of Anger

Our rightness becomes self-righteousness, and our self-righteousness gives us permission to resort to more and more extremes to get the “just resolution” we seek but never quite find.

Out of abuse and victimization, or identification with the abused and oppressed, we become abusers, oppressors, and victimizers and feel so totally justified, even proud, about what we’ve done “in the name of the cause”.

But the relief is temporary.

The others who are wounded and attacked now feel victimized and they attack back, hurting the hurt ones we champion all over again.

I say all this because it makes Nouwen’s question so terribly relevant to us all–who live in a 24/7, always connected, technologic world that serves up an endless stream of violations, causes, and outrages.

How do we leave the land of our anger?

A Land We Want to Leave

The truth is unresolved anger is poison to our souls.

It destroys our selves, our relationships with those closest to us and those furthest from us, and our communities.

Because it feels so satisfying, and seems so justifying, we don’t see it for what it is:   a jail from which we can never escape once we cross the line into bitterness, perpetual rage, and dominant anger.

So, how do we leave the land of our anger if we find ourselves there?

Nouwen gives a simple answer, “Through trust and gratitude”.

It may sound simplistic, but it is actually quite profound.

Humbled to the Point of Trust

The choice to trust, to take my angry self out of my own hands and place “angry me” into God’s hands, is they key.

It involves repeatedly telling myself, “I cannot fix the world. I am not the avenger.  I am tiny and powerless.  I am vulnerable to evil and need protection from injustice.  I need someone far greater than me to do all that for me, and I can’t be that for anyone else.”

The greatest act of trust is to allow God to love us at our angriest, ugliest, out-of-control place.

I’ve become the very thing I hate.

I’ve committed the same kinds of acts that I have denounced in others.

I’ve cherished the same ill will and harbored the same punitive heart that oppressors have, and am no better than them.

God collapses our ego and exposes our hypocrisy–then loves us.

Beloved to the Point of Gratitude

Then we begin to view life with different eyes–eyes of gratitude, eyes like His.

We realize He has treated us so much better than we’ve treated our enemies–sparing us from richly deserved harm and punishment, lavishing us with good things we don’t deserve and meeting needs we once felt entitled to receive.

We begin to thank Him over and over, to notice all the little ways He loves us, and appreciate how favored we are after we’ve been so terrible to Him and others.

We begin to look at those we formerly denounced as being people just like us.

Both our own group we used to champion, and the other group we used to loathe, are people He graciously loves.

We realize our own group is no better, is just as guilty, and needs God’s love.

We realize that other group is no worse, is just as made in God’s image, and also needs God’s love.

All the sanctimony, perpetual outrage, and harshness drains out of us.

We have left the land of our anger!

From Triggers to Truth

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2017 by jcwill5

untitledTroubling events are so troubling precisely because they reveal our hidden, less than stellar self.

We react and emote.

We lose it and speak without filters or guards.

The buried anger, the stuffed tears, or the cringing fears erupt and come out in the open for all to see.

It’s embarrassing because it’s all too revealing.

So we’d rather control the entire world than go there.

Brittle Masks

Our highly controlled, surface image of a person “having it all together” begins to crack.

The mask begins to peel away, and what’s lurking within comes out in the open.

Nobody in modern American society enjoys “losing control”.

Most of the time, we quickly shift gears and put the beast back into its cage as soon as possible.

We slip back into denial and gladly try to pretend it never happened, or will never happen again.

Then it happens again.

And we get back on the merry-go-round of stuffing and erupting, of sealing off and leaking out, of artificial, airtight control and losing all control.

Risking the Deep Dive

But what if we did something different and far more helpful?

What if, instead of being too afraid to go there, we went there?

Most people react over and over and over to the same trigger again and again and again.

They gain no insight, and don’t see reactions decrease and space for conscious choosing increase.

They spend their lives in futility, in growing frustration, and in eventual despair.

The alternative isn’t pleasant or easy, but it’s worthwhile.

That’s why the road to my own salvation began when haunting, relentlessly self-honest questions were whispered.

Why am I destroying myself?

Is there anything good in life that can’t be taken away or lost?

These questions about irrational self-destructiveness and life’s temporariness drove me in a quest for Truth.

The Quest for Truth

And the quest for Truth drove me, in light of my involvement with the demonic occult, to ask, “If there’s a personal devil, does it not also follow there’s a personal God?”

This question drove me to meet an altogether different and far more surprising God than I imagined, and I asked Him to keep showing me the truth–however unpleasant and painful that truth might be.

It’s a quest summed up in two prayers, “Lord, show me You.  And Lord, in light of You, show me me.”

It is a prayer that has never, ever gone unanswered.

It might take awhile.

It might be messy and full of detours.

But in the end, the truth will out if we keep on seeking it.

As Jesus poignantly said, “Keep asking, and you shall receive.  Keep seeking, and you shall find.   Keep knocking, and the door shall be opened to you.”

To another audience, He said, “If you continue in these things, you shall truly be disciples of Mine.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

Inescapable Contention

Case in point has been this recent election season and what’s it’s shown me about my own soul.

Just yesterday I realized how divided my parents were on politics and all social issues–almost as if Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton got married, but four levels less extreme.

And the never-resolved, low-grade tension between arguing conservatism and liberalism that was always in our house, and which I could never escape from and could never fix.

Going outside and retreating to my room were my safe spaces.

As these dots were connecting, I began to laugh at myself (which is healthy).

“Oh, it’s THAT!”

Hearing so much about Donald Trump and his angry feminist detractors was like being trapped inside a house with my arguing parents all over again.

It’s the reason why double-binds (condemned if you do, condemned if you don’t) are particularly hard on my emotional state.

An unspoken law–to never go back there and live under that cycle of reacting and counter-reacting bickering–is impossible to keep.

And unnecessary.

Happily, having a name for what I’m fighting against let’s me consciously address it.

Now I can pray about it, discuss it with friends, own it as a weaker brother, unlearn a set of responses that are no longer needed, and, above all, stay longer and live more deeply inside of God’s love instead of my childhood pain.

This new level of self-knowledge, in turn, allows me to do more good to more people and love God and others better–with less frequent and far less intense reactions.

Worth It

Relentless self-honesty under God is not an easy way to live, but it’s a great way to live.

What are today’s troubling events revealing about you?  about your own insecurities and triggers?

Where is your mask of control beginning to crack because events aren’t cooperating with your plan?

What’s leaking out of you when your dreams are denied and your will is blocked?

Who presses your buttons and why is there a button there to press in the first place?

What buried stuff is driving your reactions and responses to life?

Are you tired of this Merry-Go-Round?  Would you like to be set free?

De-Politicizing Our Institutions

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2017 by jcwill5

maxresdefault-730x348I can’t help but notice the overt politicization of so many of our common American institutions.

For example, I have noticed the damage to Christianity in the long-run done by aligning ourselves with one political party.

Rightly or wrongly, we are now perceived as carrying water for our political masters, as a special interest group that forms part of one party’s “base”.

But the Church is hardly alone in this error.

Party Schools

Take public education, for example.

Employee unions spend lavish funds on supporting one party, and unite themselves with other progressive movements and social agendas.

So of course the other side no longer trusts them and wants to put someone like Betsy DeVos over them.

In our area, more than a few teachers wore black in their classrooms the day after Hilary Clinton lost.

The “core values” that our school system promotes read like a laundry list of progressive priorities.

How is that neutral, balanced, fair, or impartial from an ideological or partisan point of view?

Our public education system is as identified with the Democratic party and with advancing progressive ideology as the Evangelical church is with the Republicans and ideological conservatism.

To be a public school teacher is to be a liberal and to use the classroom to promote progressive values.

Much like the church, public school systems and higher education systems are now perceived as “indoctrination centers” and partisan players.

Education has now become thoroughly politicized, greatly to its long-term detriment.

Media Agendas

Consider as well the mainstream media.

I find it both troubling and revealing that the new administration perceives the media as the true opposition party, as the mouthpiece and tool of their ideological and partisan opponents.

Again, when overwhelming majorities of journalists and editors align with one political party, the perception of bias will be difficult if not impossible to shake.

And the easier it will be for the other side to self-censor their exposure to sources that reinforce their own ideology–creating parallel partisan universes with alternative facts.

Satisfying But Untrusted

So here’s my point:  I think our nation would be far better served if far more of its institutions and professions were non-aligned and non-partisan in staffing, in representation, in contributions, in advocacy, and in subject matter.

In a deeply and increasingly polarized society, every institution will feel pressure to get into bed with one or the other party, with one or the other dominant ideology of our times.

And therefore every institution will find itself perceived as bias, non-credible, and antagonistic towards the “other side”–losing that side’s trust.

This has happened to journalism, and to Federal agencies like the IRS, State Department, Justice Department, and, especially, the EPA.

Economic policy is highly politicized, as is our moral policy.

We are picking economic winners and losers, moral winners and losers, every time we vote.

Even science has become politicized, with the global warming debate serving the interests of environmentalists and progressives, and now being resisted by “climate deniers” defending their resource-based livelihoods through alignment with the other party.

Trust levels in all of our institutions, unsurprisingly, is at record lows.

Whose fault is it that education, the legal system, journalism, religion, foreign policy, moral policy, economic policy, and environmental policy is no longer bi-partisan but overtly partisan?

All of ours for a long, long time.

Backing Up the Bus

So I ask, what now?

So I ask, where do we go from here?

So I ask, how do we back out of this dead end?

The problem is, once ideological warfare is entrenched, it becomes almost impossible to dislodge it.

It would take a lot of sustained courage for principals and school boards to demand a non-partisan, neutral, non-ideological, non-indoctrinating approach to the classroom, the school culture, and the curriculum.

It would be tough for newsrooms and cable channels to replace ideology-driven advocates with a more detached, above the fray cadre of journalists.

It would take great bravery for pastors and denominational leaders to renounce political activism of all kinds, and speak prophetically to correct the excesses (and idols) of both parties as God’s representatives.

It would take tremendous political willpower for governors and presidents to pick non-partisan, non-ideological heads of departments in order to restore public confidence again.

It would take tremendous political courage for legislative bodies to write politically neutral and/or bi-partisan legislation in order to build up the common, shared core again.

Where Will It End

Do we really want all of our public institutions and professions to be politicized and partisan?

Will that turn out well for us in the end?

Will huge swings in policy and huge purges of personnel with every election be best for the USA?

Will that pendulum not destabilize and work against our long-term interests all around the world?

Sadly, this seems to be the new normal.

And only the most-ideologically blinded would welcome our permanent division into two, warring nations living side-by-side.