I am not a nationalist. I am, first, foremost, and finally, a Christian. However, I did happen to be born in the United States of America, and this culture has formed and shaped how I have received and understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Admitting that, I would like to offer a few thoughts on the current plight of the United States of America.
A nation is only as strong as the weakest in its midst (please note that I did NOT say citizens). When a nation’s priorities are determined by a small group of the wealthiest and most secure persons who determine so many of the values by which most Americans live their lives, then the weakest and most vulnerable in its midst are left to fend for themselves. They become desperate and act on survival instincts. Those instincts often lead them to do things that threaten the most powerful, prosperous, and prominent in the society. Those privileged persons then act to strengthen their control and secure their position within the society. That only further alienates the weakest and most vulnerable, thus crumbling the foundation on which the society is built. The society then begins to crumble, as the number of vulnerable persons grows and segments into competing factions. The most privileged in the society withdraw to protect themselves and their interests (to places like Dubai), leaving those who are poor to fend for themselves, fighting each other for every scrap and crumb available. This, my friends, is what is happening to the United States. It’s happening because the most privileged among us has used religious and moral language to scare the most vulnerable among us into thinking that the collapse that is happening is a result of the rejection of morals. These vulnerable persons are then scared into voting to support the most privileged who promise a return to traditional values and the supposed stability of previous generations, all the while these persons who are vulnerable are actually voting to support the very policies and priorities that led to the collapse in the first place.
If the Christian tradition teaches us anything about government and the organization of societies, it is that a society based on the principles of injustice and exploitation cannot long endure, for God has placed within the human heart an unquenchable thirst for justice. This nation, committed as it is at this point to justice for the few, the powerful, the privileged, and the prosperous, cannot endure the test of time. Its very foundations are crumbling as a result of policies that benefit the top tiers of society while leaving those most vulnerable and in need at the mercy of corporate consciences. We’ve all seen how generous and forgiving those consciences have proven themselves to be over the last few years.
Does this nation have to crumble and fall? No. We have a choice to rebuild this nation on the principles of justice, mercy, and compassion, the only principles that have proven to be a solid foundation for any society. We have an incredible opportunity now to dismantle the systems which have supported the very decay we have all lamented and to build something new, something just, something beautiful, something that will endure: a beloved community that more clearly reflects the heart of all that is holy in this world. We have an opportunity to build a society where all are free, where all are valued, where all have enough to eat, a place to live, and a vocation based in gifts and abilities. Such a community has the ability to stand as a model for the world, a shining testament to the power of justice to transform human community. Such a society has the ability to lead the world in recognizing the fragility of all life on this planet and to value the interdependence woven into our very struggle for survival.
Friends, we have an opportunity to create such a society. It’s easily within our grasp. The only question is do we have the strength and courage to do so.
By Wes Jamison
The Rev. Wes Jamison is a minister-at-large (meaning he doesn’t have a call to a specific congregation at this point) for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. He holds a B.A. in Religion and Journalism from Milligan College and an M.Div. from Emmanuel School of Religion. Jamison most recently served as National Field Organizer for the Institute for Welcoming Resources, a joint project of the welcoming church programs and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He currently chairs the Open and Affirming Ministries Program for GLAD (Gay, Lesbian, and Affirming Disciples) Alliance and serves as editor of Crossbeams, the regular newsletter of GLAD. Jamison lives on a farm near Blacksburg, Virginia. He has been in the Search and Call process for over five years now and continues to seek a call as a parish minister.