Forty years ago Reagonomics took over, promising untold wealth to everyone through trickle-down economics.
Thirty years ago Biblical Manhood and Womanhood arrived, promising happy marriages and a happy society.
Twenty years ago Critical Race Theory rose to prominence, promising to end racism.
Today these three groups are locked in a bitter rivalry, each accusing the other and demanding promised results. We see the Left demanding the promised money from the Right, religious groups demanding protection from the Right agains the onslaught from the Left, the Right demanding the right to free speech from the Left against its stifling censorship.
How did we get here?
The answer is simple: because they all promised something they couldn't deliver as they offered the problem as the solution.
The Right promised money would "trickle down" if the already wealthy were given more, as if feeding the already stuffed bellies of some would solve the hunger of others.
Religious groups promised women would be safe and respected if men were given more power, as if giving more rights to the free would help those in cages.
The Left promised racism would be defeated if we only focused more on race, as if digging a deeper ditch would build a bridge.
The last mentioned is especially alarming, since on the one hand we're told "race" is something created by colonialism and therefore a social construct that wouldn't exist otherwise. Yet, any talk about forgoing "race" in favor of universal brother-sisterhood of humanity is called "racism.." The same is found in the transgender community. Gender is said to be a social construct, yet any sign of stereotypical gender behavior is said to be an indication the person belongs to a certain gender. If that gender doesn't correspond to the person's biological sex, the person must transition to the other gender, either by altering the body or by simple self-identification. Race and gender are elevated above all other considerations. This begs of course the question, why do we have such a heavy focus on race and gender if they are mere social constructs that wouldn't exist if humans hadn't created them?
The answer is found in the way religious groups have insisted on strict gender roles for men and women. If you are born a man, then you must act in a certain way; if you are born a woman, you have only one path in life. The ideas of masculinity and feminity were solidifed in ancient Greece, wherefrom the trickeled down to us through Rome's influence on the nacent Christian church. The Bible doesn't know of such strict gender roles. It's rather a cultural phenomenon, which is why it's called a social construct. Those who believe in biblical equality insist the mind is free of such gender assignments; it's only the body that reflects the concepts male and female. A man can be feminine, a woman can be masculine, and any variations thereof, and it's perfectly okay. There is no need to reassign gender, since the mind is free of such constraints. And for those who feel they were born into a wrong body, there is space for them too. What there isn't space for is the idea that a man can say he is a woman and for a woman to say she is a man without any alteration to the body. The mind is free, but the body is still stuck in the reality of being part of the biological world where certain things happen in certain ways.
The question about race follows the same logic. The human mind is free to feel and think as it wishes, but the body reflects certain biological realities. The emphasis on difference is rooted on traditional ways of viewing certain ethnic groups. There is a vast need for some ethnic groups to re-assert their own dignity. But as I said earlier, bridges aren't created by digging deeper ditches. The bridge requires its own building materials. By focusing on difference we are creating more animosity between people groups, just as focusing on gender roles created animosity between men and women. Only by focusing on what we share in common can we come together and celebrate difference. We manage to do this every four years in the Olympic Games. Every nationality is presented and goodwill is in the air. Every country takes special pride in their athletes' performances, and no one is offended by the successes of their neighbors. Instead, everyone gets the same round of applauds. This is the attitude we need in our everyday life too.
But, says the Left, we can't have that while our institutions oppress some and favor others. This is undeniably true. But the answer isn't changing the meaning of words until all discussion grinds to a halt.
"Racism" means the hatred of people based on their ethnicity/race.
"Bigotry" means the hatred of people based on their beliefs.
The left re-arranged the meanings of these words, until "racism" became "structural racism" and "bigotry" became "personal racism." This allowed them to call everyone who disagrees with them "racists." Ingenious, but ever so deceptive and counter-productive. All the outrage that lights up social media on a regular basis would be quieted if the words were returned to their original meanings, allowing for fruitful discussion across the divide.
Institutions don't oppress, just as hospitals don't heal. It's the people within the institutions and hospitals who do the work. And as always happens with people, we bring our personal ideas and beliefs with us. The church knows this well. Society influences the church just as the church influences society. It's a give and take that sometimes results in good things, sometimes bad things. All of our institutions reflect who are are as a people. To claim that we need to dismantle institutions is as useful as to say we need to get rid of roads because of potholes. Instead of blaming the institutions, a better approach would be to work on personal beliefs of people. This cannot be accomplished by saying every white person is a racist, every disagreement is a sign of racism, and by allowing unfettered bullying to thrive in the name of "social justice." Nor is it accomplished by demanding integration while actively resisting by calling it "assimilation." We can't have diversity if we give some a rulebook that is as heavy as the old phonebook and let others do as they please; the old sin of churches where leaders and those with money could do as they pleased while everyone else were held accountable and policed with a zeal that would have made Gestapo envious. We need to resurrect the old idea of brother-sisterhood of humanity. For in the end, we all are the keepers of our sisters and brothers, whether we recognize it or not.
Since we are the keepers of our sisters and brothers, money matters. A just distribution of money matters. But let's not kid ourselves. Posting a gazillion updates on social media isn't "work." It's shameless self-promotion. True activism is hard, often boring, and pays little. Those who have no appetite for such work shouldn't engage in it. We need also a global discussion about money. Those who cry foul about Reagonomics (and rightly so) are often reluctant to talk about global injustices; it's said to diminish the hardship of those around them. And of course it does. It's quite the contrast to argue that a person who has all their basic needs met should have more, and it's impossible to bring that to the discussion about the billions of people who live of $2/day. When the focus is solely on the top 1% we lose sight of proportionality. Everyone feels poor compared to the ultra-rich; most of us feel rich when compared to the truly poor. And no, no one should be happy about just getting by. We have the money to make sure everyone thrives. But it comes also with the idea of self-reliance. Too much of the discussion from the Left focuses on aid instead of opportunity. Instead of pouring more money into SNAP, we need programs that help people make better food choices that cost less. It would do wonders to the national obesity crisis and create a healthier, more robust population. The Left has an indulgence problem, which is a very western thing to do, which is precisly why we need to move the discussion to the global scene. Instead of posting feel-good videos of people building their own swimming pools in another country, why not look around and see what other countries are doing that works and maybe adopt some practices? And no, it's not "cultural appropriation"; it's being smart. It's what humans have always done.
There is a saying in the church, "Jesus needs new PR."
It's true of more than the church.