Follow by Email

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hope in Revolution

The character of the revolutionary is hope. Hope is an orientation to the future. Hope is the vision of new possibility in the here and now.

Liberation theologians teach that the God of revolutionaries is Future--that the divine nature is to be future. It is a Future which beckons us to leave the land of oppression and co-create a new place where victims become victors and the objects of history become the subjects of history. Like prophets they say: leave the land of oppression whether it is the rule of pharaohs and dictators, the necessity to scavenge to live, or the compulsion to stay stuck in victimhood.

Since creation is the divine activity in the world, those who co-create the future as a place of possibilities and a space of freedom are indeed embodying the divine act and so make Future present in the world, here and now. Such an act is not an onerous work but a joyful labour.

But here is where some roads might diverge. Some revolutionaries of an absolute mind fabricate the future in their own image. They have an ideology. They possess a blueprint of the future. They claim a special revelation of the will of God. In other words, they close possibilities by their ideas. And since the future is closed, set, already there, it is no longer open, emerging, teeming with possibilities, a matter of experimentation. It is no longer future at all. Already known as the right plan, it is executed by might, even violence--an armageddon, a dictatorship of the proletariat, a purge.

But the hope that liberation theologians are teaching is very different. It is connected to faith, which is an assertion into, not a dissolution of, tradition. It is an acceptance of the past to let it go. It is a seeing into the possibilities of the forms and institutions and teachings of the past rather than getting mired there and needing to destroy them. To be hopeful is to be faithful. It is to accept the past, the world as it is, the human condition and nature, in order to challenge it to achieve their possibilities. That is why liberation is not an act of hate, but of love. It is an engagement with what has become; it is a connection to all who are here and an affirmation that we all have a future together.

Faith, hope, and love--temporal dimensions of the same creative activity of building places of freedom where people can actualize their potential, search for infinity, desire to know everything, and achieve personal and public happiness.

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," said Samuel Johnson. And we know what he meant. How some of those who claim to be patriots who wear flag lapels and condemn flag burning, who say "love America or leave it" to protesters, who jail and kill prophets, who attack anyone who questions the military budget or does not support a war are some of the greatest scoundrels especially when they are personally gaining votes or revenue by their stance. The patriot scoundrel refuses to acknowledge and learn from his nation's sins.

Conversely many who would criticize some of the oppressive acts of their nation, who might even go to prison because of their opposition, are some of the greatest patriots. True patriots, persons who love their country, have great hopes, but are not blind to its past transgressions. They confess them with contrition. They ask forgiveness and accept the penance of consequences for these transgressions. They commit themselves to sin no more and work hard to make their country more just to their own citizens and to others around the world.

The progressive republican is attempting to reconstruct the Republic by renewing traditional values; not by restoring some nostalgic utopia image of the past, but by exploring the possibilities for freedom and justice in the present institutions, no matter how they got here.

The traditional values of the United States of America are articulated in two formulas: the Declaration of Independence "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and the pledge of allegiance "one nation under God" and "with liberty and justice for all." These express the heritage that guides republicans into the future.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness enunciate the most fundamental of rights for all citizens. Each refers to a distinct dimension of human existence: economic, cultural, and political.

Life refers to the right to live and to have all the necessities for biological survival including nutrition, shelter, health, safety, and education. We as a nation pledge economic sufficiency. We pledge that no one will be denied these rights though we may differ as to how they will be provided to all.

Liberty refers to the right to enjoy the style of life and personal values that one chooses--as long as they do not infringe on others styles of living and personal values or deny others the necessities of life. We as a nation pledge cultural tolerance. We pledge to allow people to think, to read, to believe, to worship, to love, to entertain, to protect their household, to have private property, and to behave in private anyway that they want without interference from government.

The pursuit of happiness refers to the achievement of recognition, dignity, and respect. We as a nation pledge political power.  We pledge that all citizens have full and equal access to public space, have the right to associate, to speak in public, to organize for action, to influence policy, and to create political institutions. We pledge to continually reconstruct our society so that it is "just and free for all"--the words of the pledge of allegiance.

But consider "one nation under God." The "one nation" does not deny that we are a country with many tribes, clans, classes, cultures, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, languages, religions, belief systems, lifestyles, political parties, economic institutions, even many nations when we take into account native peoples. But it projects a hope that "e pluribus unum"--one from many, that people can listen and find common ground, that despite their differences they will engage with one another to ensure the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the dream of a Republic that a nation is larger than the sum of its parts, that it has a character and therefore a "soul" or "spirit" that can transcend all differences. One nation was also a response to the civil war and expressed a hope that the nation could heal its divisions.

"Under God" Though a recent add on to the pledge of allegiance, we note that the founders used God language but, as men of the enlightenment, often meant Nature and the sum of the laws of Nature (Spinoza) or the Principle that got nature started and lets it work its way out (Deism). The people of the great evangelical awakenings and revival movements spoke of God as a supernatural spiritual entity above nature who acted like a parent with his children. In our postmodern age, "God," if used at all, is the process through which all consciousness and intelligence is converging or is the infinite point of ultimate convergence--a sort of Omega Point in Evolution. God is the be-coming one.

Even though "God" means something different in every religion and even within religions, it is certainly in the lexicon of the American Civil religion as demonstrated by how all presidents and candidates end their speeches with "God bless America." The positive in the use is the avoidance of deifying the nation which is under, but not divine. The negative is making the nation so exceptional that it is always right.

In any case, the Future is the unifying principle for the progressive republican, but a future that remembers its past and finds possibilities in the present.

No comments: