A Brief History of Now



"How did it get this bad?" is a question you hear a lot these days. I find myself asking it all the time. The answer is complicated, but it's clear. You just have to connect the dots. And both the Right and Left are implicated.


The Right (religiously, politically, socially, aesthetically) has an anemic, inadequate theology of redemption. They don't understand -- or don't want to -- that "Vengeance is mine" saith the Lord. They don't understand that our species, nestled presumptuously at the top of the food chain, is called to be ruled by love and not by hate, and by all the attendant virtues that come with such a life: forgiveness, patience, peace, mercy and all the other "liberal" nouns that are essentially shit upon in this late-modernity, hyper-toxic masculinity culture of ours.


But make no mistake -- all this muscle-flexing comes from a deep-seated fear that comes from a primal insecurity of change, of anything new. The word for this is "Neophobic." I know it well. I have a son who experiences it every day, but his fear doesn't manifest itself in hate or toxic masculinity. He's 10 and has Asperger's Syndrome, and the part of his brain that is supposed to suppress that deep-seated impulse that we developed in our primal forefathers and mothers in order to keep ourselves alive just doesn't work like it's supposed to. He's afraid of many things that most of the rest of us take for granted. So whenever he tries a new food, or is flexible with a change in routine, or makes a new friend, he's mustered up more courage and bravery than any muscle-bound guy in his jacked-up pick-up with toxic bumper stickers and a loaded gun rack. They don't know such bravery, and never may. William is one of the bravest people I've ever known.


The folks on the Right want to conserve, which is a fine impulse, depending on what you want to conserve. Conserving human dignity, or the right to cast your vote, or the freedom of the press to speak truth to power, or the self-evident truth that all men are created equal -- all of these are good things. But wanting to conserve the atavistic impulses of intolerance to change, of "might makes right" politics, of tribe or party above country loyalties -- these are all decidedly bad things. The kernel of truth in any decent theology of redemption is that we all are in need of it, and understanding this at any level of depth makes a person humble, makes a person open to other ways of seeing, to listening to other stories without having to surrender the deepest truths embedded in the very heart of Creation (see below). The Right advocates for a distorted redemption.


The Left (religiously, politically, socially, aesthetically) has an anemic, inadequate theology of creation. They don't understand -- or don't want to -- that "they were created male and female. Male and female they were created," or that the majority of the Ten Commandments begin with "thou shalt not" because we humans, left to our own devices, tend towards excess, even an excess of liberation to the point where we'll liberate ourselves from the very things that bind us together and keep us healthy and whole: things like virtue, restraint, manners, morality and all the other "conservative" nouns that are essentially shit upon in this late-modernity, chaotic "anything goes" culture of ours.


But make no mistake -- all this hyper-inclusivity comes from a deep-seated fear that comes from a primal insecurity to boundaries, to anything established or traditional. The word for this "rebellious." I know it well. I have a daughter, Arabelle, who in many ways, is a typical 16 year-old girl. She loves Harry Styles, loves going vintage clothes-shopping with her friends (and mother), and follows some of the hippest trend-setters on social media. But she also understands, at a level I'm only beginning to fully appreciate, that there are things one shouldn't rebel against, that there are boundaries you simply don't cross, not because you can't but because you shouldn't. She understands that no matter how popular some movements are, or how much social capital you might gain from promoting them, you don't do it if it compromises your integrity or sullies your deeper spiritual commitments. Arabelle is one of the wisest human beings I've ever known.


The folks on the Left want to liberate, which is a fine impulse, depending on what you want to liberate people from. Liberating them from bondage to political tyrants, or freeing people from exploitation, or rescuing the vulnerable and weak from slavery, or saving the poor from the predatory effects of unregulated capitalism -- all of these are good things to be liberated from. But wanting to liberate human beings from the biological fundaments of gender, or trying to free them from the necessary and wholesome constraints of sexual purity, or fighting to free them from the bondage of common decency -- these are all decidedly bad things. The kernel of truth in any decent theology of creation is that we all require boundaries to keep ourselves intact, both individually and collectively, and understanding this at any level of depth makes a person cautious, makes a person open to some of the traditional ways of seeing the world and ourselves in it, and open to listening to our elders without having to surrender the deepest truths embedded in the very heart of Redemption (see above). The Left advocates for a distorted creation.


When a history of now is written, the wiser historians will tell about a time of distortion, on both the Right and Left, and of the inertia of those in the Middle who, by dint of their preference for the middle, preferred to remain outside the fray. But being outside the fray and being above it are two very different things. To be above it means you have a wider view of the "fray" -- of what's happening at any given moment in time -- which means that you will see, before most others will, when to step directly into it in order to help change the course of history. Those who did so -- Tubman, Gandhi, MLK, Walesa, Mandela -- risked their lives in order to save the "now" that they were each subject to, and each one of them did so without resorting to violence. Indeed, each of them was following the example of Jesus, who showed us that only through love, which both conserves and liberates, can the essence of creation and redemption ever be truly realized.


52 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All