By Joe Carson
Trump’s Election Evidences “Progressive” Christians need to be resolute, including redemptive suffering, to the Suicide Machine
I am NOT a Christian religious professional, as are many others in OPEN/Convergence. So why am I here?
I desire, in obedience to God, to advance the redemption of the world. In 2016, in my opinion, this entails our unprecedented global civilization sustaining to year 2100, despite the unprecedented challenges it faces. For this to happen - for our civilization to avoid large-scale, if not near total, collapse in coming decades - I believe that “loving one’s neighbor as oneself,” a central value of Jesus’ Good News, must become the central value in the framing story by which the crew of planet earth stewards our common home and its life support systems, natural and man-made.
Brian McLaren’s 2007 book, “Everything Must Change: When the World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide (emphasis added),” is what drew me into the Convergence Movement. It describes our planet’s current systems and framing story as a “suicide machine.” I agree with that description, given present facts and trends on planet earth, which are also outlined in the book. (Brian’s most recent book, “The Great Spiritual Migration” continues to use “suicide machine” as a metaphor for our civilization’s current global (dis)order.)
We call ourselves “progressive.” An axiom of “progressives” is that trustworthy societal institutions are necessary for a flourishing society. Donald Trump’s election, just as recent Gallup polls, demonstrate a widespread – and growing - anti-establishment sentiment – a sentiment that also manifested in recent years in things as diverse as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Many people voted for Trump, not because they are racist homophobes, but based on the perception, “The system is rigged - society’s institutions cannot be trusted - they advance the interests of the elites who run them to the detriment of common good. Government, particularly justice, is bought and paid for by the rich via their corporations. Trump says he will turn over the money tables, while a vote for Clinton is a vote for the corrupt establishment.”
This reasoning, to the extent it is valid (and I agree that the elites who run society’s institutions often, if not almost predictably, put their professional standing and economic security ahead of their duty to the common good), is the aspect of Trump’s victory for which “progressive” Christian organizations, in my opinion, should accept some ownership. Progressive Christianity - just as other “progressive” movements – advocates, indeed presumes, societal institutions, including government agencies and corporations, can be trustworthy vehicles to advance the common good.
I am now both a “prophet” and “public theologian” in my profession of engineering and federal civil service, secular as both institutions are. Neither is adequately trustworthy at present, in my opinion, for those born in 2017 having a good chance of getting to die a natural death. I can assure you that “colliding” against institutional evil comes at cost, and I think “progressives” should comport themselves to “redemptive suffering” as a necessary part of advancing and defending a “progressive” agenda against the suicide machine.
For a quarter-century now I have been in collision – in a “but not through me” non-violent confrontation - with the suicide machine in my profession of engineering and federal civil service. How? Likely you guessed - by whistleblowing about institutional law-breaking that kills people and confronting, via rule of law, the resultant workplace reprisal. Where is “progressive” Christianity? My testimony is that it is in the same place as other strands of Christianity – on the sidelines, calling to mind the quotes of Martin Luther King, Jr., "There comes a time when silence is betrayal," and "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Christian progressives, my plea is that our leaders and aligned institutions confront, non-violently, but in a resolute “but not through me” way, the suicide machine by NOT bystanding to:
1) established legal records of institutional law-breaking, by corporations or government agencies, that harms or kills people.
2) the bystanding of Christians employed by such law-breaking institutions and who (silently) witnessed (if not worse) their law-breaking
3) to well-evidenced claims of such corporation or government agentcy law-breaking
4) to the redemptive suffering – the “suffering persecution for justice’s sake” - of any Christian (or non-Christian) employed by corporations or government agencies who experience workplace retribution for their non-violent resistance to such institutional evil (i.e. their “whistleblowing” about it).
I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts via this blog post. Anyone who knows the particulars of my life knows how privileged (and pleasant) it has been, relative to the vast majority of the 100 billion or so humans who have lived or are alive today. I even get to hold the privileged/burdensome thought that what I am trying to do via this blog post (as other efforts) may perceptibly “move the needle” for the redemption of the world.
Joseph Carson, PE, Chairman OSC Watch Steering Committee, multipletime “prevailing” whistleblower in Department of Energy