DISCLAIMER: While spurred on by today’s political climate, this post is much more about cultural/social shifts. And Jesus of course.
Yesterday on NPR my wife and I were listening to some of the commentary surrounding the democratic convention. This was just after the first night and Michelle Obama’s speech and folks were in full pundit mode around the issues of gender, sexism and the political landscape. DNC, night #2, was to have Hilary Rodham Clinton on the stage so folks were all a flitter about what she would do, what would be her tone, would she be able to be part of some healing of the Democratic party.
By the time this post goes live, we will know.
Some will be impressed, others will not.
Come on people, lets give her a break. Seriously.
Still, I love to play armchair political analyst as much as the other person, and I certainly have my thoughts about both Hillary and Obama, their respective roles in the party, politics and world, but there was one thing that was said that really drew a distinction for me.
One of the analysts when addressing a caller that was mad that Hilary didn’t run her campaign “as a woman” and was trying deny her womanhood, responded basically, “If Barack can run as a post-race candidate, why can’t Hilary run as a post-feminist one?” Almost in unison, my wife and I responded with a “Because she isn’t a post-feminist person.”
Now this is not a dig on Hilary or a kudo for Barack – and yes, I am on a first name basis with both of them – but an illustration of the worldview shift that is creating so much anxiety right now, a factor that I believe trumps ideology and/or theology. Much like in Kelly Goff’s Book about generational shifts, what we are seeing in this interaction is the shift in power and influence between a generation that was formed by the days of the civil rights movement and those who’s political consciousness has been formed since then. In the days of civil rights and in some ways, the cold war mentality, there were clearly defined “us” and “them” postures. We knew who the enemy was, we knew who our friends were and we all, conservative or liberal, were rabidly loyal and willingly stayed in those boxes. Regardless of how bloody the fight got, we knew the lines and we never crossed them. Loyalty to the platform required us to buy the whole package. Step outside of that and you were no longer playing the game as it was always played. Appreciate the perspective of or interact with the “enemy” and your loyalty to the cause was called into question. Act outside of perceived norms of gender, class or race and you were a sell-out, no longer “x” enough to be part of the “in” crowd.
I do believe the tables are turning. Not only is the next generation breaking all those rules, but they are not feeling guilty about it at all. Their worldview is different, their vernacular about justice is difference, the way they see the future is different, the way they interact across previously uncrossable lines is different. In fact – gasp – they are embracing the possibilities that can come out of a new way of seeing the world. And now it looks as if this way of being will dictate the ways in which politics will be run for the next decades.
As I have said before, this is not just a new way of DOING things, this is an entirely different way to see the world and to be part of a community. At least two groups – modern and postmodern if you will – and the degrees within them, are not even speaking the same language. One group is speaking Czechoslovakian and the other is speaking some dialect from the Philippines. Both use their voices and words, but neither has any idea what the other is saying. No wonder there is tension, anxiety and downright animosity between the two. And no wonder it is easier to fight over other things, important as they may be, rather than to look at deeper, more complex cultural shifts.
Hmmmm . . . sound like the church much?
While it may manifest itself in different ways, we too, mainline denominational institutions, are struggling with this blurring of traditional lines of community, institutions, loyalty and solidarity. This development is throwing the institutional church into a time of actual anxiety and perceived disarray. We may not always get to the level of the political arena – okay yes we do – but we have this little common denominator that will help us get through it.
What then shall we do?
Open our eyes.
I think one thing we must do is to begin to acknowledge that this shift is indeed happening and stop trying to control, confine and otherwise limit this wonderful and amazing church that gathers around a common covenant in Christ. No one is saying that we should embrace everything that culture embraces and succumb to relativism, but if we are not able to acknowledge and reflect upon cultural and social shifts how will we ever be able to faithfully discern that which we embrace and that which must stand against?
Quite simply, if we do not come to grips with the fact that the world is changing around us and we are losing – or have lost – our relevance and impact, we cheapen our response to the amazing grace that God gives to the world.
And lest we blame “the other” – take your pick: liberal, conservative, urban, suburban, mega, elitists, institutionalists, congregationalists, etc. – again, this is about worldview and not theological position. In fact, if we continue to resist the idea that many are stretching hands across those traditional battle lines, those of us who know only too well how to exist within said lines are doomed to wander further into irrelevance.
I do not want to go there. Does anyone really?
Wow, this post has turned far more ranty that I had intended, but therein lies my passion and excitement about the church. We are at an amazing and tumultuous time in the life of the world and the church. Lets take it head on, lets be open to what may be, stand against what should be denied and boldly walk into the future knowing that we have not avoided the storm ahead, but have been the peace-filled and non-anxious presence that Christ has called and joined us to be.