Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Don't Rush to Friday: Reflections on Holy Week

There is a lot of talk these days, at least among my white evangelical cohort, about the importance of Good Friday. It was a long neglected part of our liturgical culture because we don't like to focus on the death part. There's a real reclamation project going on whereby evangelicals are getting into Good Friday. It's important. For every quote of Tony Campolo ("it's Friday, but Sunday's coming" - a quote from a sermon he gave in a VERY different context), there is a counter - "don't rush to Sunday." It's a reminder that we need to dwell on the death of God a bit, to feel the horror and guilt and uncertainty. It's good for us.

I was struck this week, though, how it seems we may have moved our object of attention from Sunday to Friday and perhaps we need the reminder that as much as we shouldn't rush to Sunday, we also shouldn't rush to Friday.

I know a few communities that celebrate a service of worship every day of Holy Week - Monday through Sunday - it's a good way to keep the pace. I suspect this idea gives a lot of pastors the shivers - not only is that planning and leading a whole bunch more services, there's also the issue of what to focus each one on. When we're in that Friday-Sunday schedule, it's easy: death and life. But I'm pretty sure real life (and death) is a bit more nuanced. It's the same problem we have making Advent into "pre-Christmas;" we're terrified of the in between (you don't see many Holy Saturday services, do you?).

I've been to a number of Maundy Thursday services the last few years in a whole lot of congregations. Most of the time, though, it feels like Friday. They're different, for sure - often foot-washing and/or communion as opposed to the traditional Tennebrae of Friday, but the mood, atmosphere and focus is decidedly sad. This strikes me as the wrong tone.

I get that Good Friday is sad - it's like a funeral. We're mourning the death of God. I wonder if perhaps Maundy Thursday should be a bit more like a wake. It's heavy, yes - you can't dismiss the importance of all that's going on: Jesus serving the disciples, Last Supper, betrayal - the guy sweated blood for God's sake (well, for human sake, but you get it).

At the same time, I feel like it was a livelier gathering and ours should be, too - with an appreciation of the significance, but still a sense of celebration. Passover, which is what they're celebrating, is both somber and celebratory. People died - every firstborn in Egypt - but a people was born. Passover is as much about the formation of God's people as it is the spectre of death. The mood of the Thursday service should reflect this.

I'm thinking of the scene in Braveheart (that may not actually exist anywhere but in my imagination), where the Scots are preparing to fight the next morning; they sit up late around the fire talking and laughing, sharing thoughts and fears. Maybe a more contemporary idea: the night before a wedding. The rehearsal is over and the bride and groom have returned to their separate quarters with attendants, preparing for the big day to follow. There's nothing sad about those moments, but they are deep, meaningful, tender. There's a real importance in the air; this is not a normal service, but in a way it is, just with a little more heft.

Yes, Jesus death is sad, horrific even, but that's Friday. As much as we shouldn't rush past it, we also shouldn't rush to get there. Jesus was still alive on Thursday and it feels like Thursday should still celebrate his life. Jesus' life was about laying his life down for others - that's serious business, but it began well before his arrest. He began laying down his life for others the moment he understood and accepted his call from God - when he gave up whatever were his dreams of life or the expectations of his family to proclaim the gospel to the world.

Thursday is the culmination of all of that, especially for us still alive. Yes, Jesus death and resurrection are of utmost theological and practical importance, but it is his life that speaks most directly to our lives today. We see a group of people, disciples, who mean well, but don't always get it and certainly don't always get along, sitting around the table, eating and talking together. They're committed to each other and to Jesus, even without knowing all that this commitment entails. They know something big is on the horizon, and they might even know something will be demanded of them; choices will have to be made.

They don't eat and drink unknowingly, but in a sense they do. They don't know - not even Judas - what will happen next. It is the ultimate unknown, but they are being shaped and formed as people who can respond to that unknown - not always perfectly (for sure), but with grace and faith and love. This, too, is important.

We're a year away now, so there's time to ponder and think and dream. When celebrating Holy Week, by all means, don't forget Friday, but let's not rush to get there either.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Pledge and the Creed

I finished a book last week. It's a good one - Desiring the Kingdom, by James K A Smith - I'm probably a little late to the party there. It was a really cool look at how our practices shape us as people. Specifically from a Christian perspective, it was an exploration into how our cultural practices - economic, educational, governmental, even recreational activities - work against formation in the Christian tradition; and how many of the practices labeled "Christian" are really just re-formations of secular liturgies with a baptized name and vocabulary.

In some sense it was challenging, in another it was telling me things I was eager to hear.

One thing I did think about, with my daughter soon moving up to the next level of school, was about how we're formed so specifically to be citizens of a culture. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day is a big, seemingly innocuous part of that. Most everyone grew up doing it. It's more than just a patriotic thing, though, it's very much a cultural practice that connects us to a larger picture of America and makes it easier for us to appropriate the expected patriotism later on.

One of the biggest problems in contemporary American Christianity is the notion that our faith is one part of our identity - that we're people (specifically a free individual) and all the other things are added to it - nationality, race, religion, occupation, family, etc. Some of those we hold more closely than others, but generally we like to be able to pick and choose how closely we hold each of those.

This notion itself is a stark divide from classical Christian conceptions of identity - where one's allegiance to Christ becomes all-encompassing, in many ways completely overwriting individual identity, certainly becoming THE primary means of understanding one's self: in connection to the people of God and Christ himself.

She's only just turning four this spring, so I'm not sure when exactly they'll start teaching the Pledge in Eva's school. I do know I really don't want it to be part of her life. We start forming and shaping the people our children will be long before they can understand what exactly these practices mean or what they do to us. Shoot - most adults don't pause one second to contemplate how our ingrained and traditional cultural practices shape and form who we are throughout our lives.

And I think that's the point.

We're using thing like the Pledge to create a child's understanding of reality and identity and the world around her in ways that make it difficult to even question later on. This is what commercial brands try to do, as well. They want you to so identify with the spirit of Nike or Apple that you'll feel disconnected or misplaced or not "you" if you ever stray from the brand.

Smith argues that everything we do with some regularity, whether we know it or not, is shaping us in the same way. We're being branded by our actions. The book details how deeply each of these may affect us and the good and bad (and in-between) of it all, but this Pledge thing really stuck with me - mostly because he contrasted the Pledge of Allegiance with the Apostles' Creed. It's a relatively short statement that sums up the basic beliefs and commitments of a Christian. It's older even than scripture itself and defines citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

Very political language is used in scripture to talk about God's people. That's intentional, because it's very clear that God's people are a people, a political unit, set apart and separate from all other political units. There are no American Christians or German Christians or Bangladeshi Christians, just Christians who happen to find themselves in a particular country.

What that means for us is difficult. It's a road we have to walk intentionally and carefully, because we really can't be separated from the nations in which we live, but we do need to understand how we, as foreigners, must navigate life in these lands. I have trouble with the Pledge specifically because it denies this dichotomy. I remember questioning the Pledge as a kid for exactly this reason - we're not supposed to give allegiance to anyone but God. I remember being told, "the Pledge says 'under God,' so it's ok; if there's ever a conflict between America and God, we'll choose God."

That sounds nice in theory, but one look at our cultural and religious landscape today proves it doesn't work out so well in reality. You can't be of two minds - our brain can't handle it (I believe it's called a psychosis, but I might've gotten the technical term wrong). We're driven to either separate the two into distinct spheres, never overlapping; or we're driven to combine them in whatever Frankenstein-moster-y way we can manage (ruining both).

I worry, though, about how the other cultural practices will factor in. I don't think my daughter will have trouble with the concept of allegiance. Once you explain the word, it makes sense that you can only give allegiance to God. The harder thing will be working against our cultural conditioning to fit in, go along, and not stand out. If everyone else is doing something, then it must be right. We ask our kids, "If everyone else were jumping off a bridge..." but we typically teach them to jump - not intentionally and not with out words, but with these culturally conditioned practices that become second nature (first nature, really).

What I'm realizing this week is that while we'll try to teach our daughter why we don't say the Pledge, I haven't done a good job of replacing that practice with something else. I'm not sure I could recite the Apostle's Creed. I mean I could explain the three sections and their theological importance and name the essential elements of each, but I don't know that I could actually say it correctly.

I'm realizing it's not enough just to combat one cultural liturgy; it must be replaced with something life-giving and formative in the Christian tradition. so I'm going to work harder to make sure I've got it down and begin to teach it to my daughter. I don't know yet if I'll connect it to the Pledge as an alternative; I just don't know if pitting them against each other makes sense for a young child's brain development. I do want her to be formed in this way, though.

I hold out great hope, however, because although she usually refuses to say it when we ask (she's 3.5 after all), I know she memorized the Lord's Prayer quite a while ago and without prompting. We say it each week in worship and she picked it up on her own. That gives me great hope that we're forming her and shaping her with Christ-centered liturgies and the very fact I'm worried about it is, hopefully, a good sign that we'll be able to do the best we can.

I'll leave you today with, well, the Creed - may it form you and shape you into the kind of person who loves like Jesus:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware a free book isn't enough to assuage my cutting honesty. If I've failed to write a bad review, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

This was supposed to be a comedy. Perhaps it was some marketing flaw, but I signed up to receive and review this book because I thought it was straight comedy - just some pastor guy making jokes. I expected it to be tacky and bad (because "Christian" versions of regular things generally are), but it seemed intriguing and lighter fare than what I've been reading, so I got it.

Then like, paragraph three comes along and it's serious. Now I'm confused. The introduction tells the reader to look this guy up on the internet, because he apparently survived some Twitter plagiarism scare. That's not super-endearing, although: points for honesty. Sammy Rhodes is a pastor guy trying to be funny - he's a guy who works with college students and I think this book is designed for them and will appeal to them.

At the same time, its really important. I wanted to say "deadly serious" there, but that sounds ominous and is, well, wrong. The book talks about serious things, but not really in a serious way. He's casual and honest and that makes what he has to say easier to hear. Rhodes is open about his problems - with marriage, self-esteem, depression, lust, parenting, life in general. He talks openly and honestly in ways the Church has long needed to do and largely avoided. There's a lot of good stuff here.

Plus, the book gets better as it goes along, which is always nice.

Now I want to say this next part carefully. Sammy Rhodes is a guy who knows the rise and fall of internet fame. He understands deeply how easy it is to devalue people, ignore them selfishly, and make them feel "less than;" he's pretty open about all of that in the book. At the same time, he's not funny. There are, indeed, lots of attempts at humor, including some random journal-esque pieces that reflect on the task of writing and help to separate sections of the book. They're just not funny.*

As I said before, Rhodes' real gift is being casual; discussing important things in a calm, friendly manner that de-escalates the stress and pressure these topics so often invoke. When he's being self-deprecating or humble, yes, there's humor there, but it's more the creation of a safe space. The attempts at jokes are painful (although I did laugh, for some reason, at the joke about Whoppers tasting like "old people covered in chocolate") and almost detract from the book. Sorry, Sammy, just trying to write an honest review.

I started out this book with really low expectations, soon was surprised to find out it might be pleasantly mediocre, and finished with a real appreciation for what Rhodes was able to do with This is Awkward. It's a good book about important things that feels graceful and safe; it's something I'd certainly recommend people read, especially people trying to tackle the minefield of relationships and self-worth.

I can't help but thinking that's more than any author could ask for.

*Except the idea for writing a book about Disney movies four years later - that's a killer idea and should definitely, seriously, 100% really be his next book. I might even buy it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A New Missiology

I've been thinking some about evangelism over the last few months. I like the name evangelical. I don't much like the way it's been used and appropriated in recent years, especially during the US election cycle, but I absolutely claim the title evangelical. Traditionally, the title has focused on transformation - most definitions use the term conversion - but that just means change. There's also an emphasis on faith impacting life - yes, this is often translated to legalism, but of course, it doesn't have to.

I like the term evangelical because, in essence, it means I believe the love of Christ can and should change people in real and long-lasting ways. Faith is not something we put in our shopping cart to enhance our experience of life. We can't just add Jesus to our collection the way a museum curator acquires a new Monet. An evangelical understands faith as taking an abandoned warehouse and turning it into a museum. For a Christian, this transformational element is the gospel, the good news of Christ - which, in short, is simply that God loves the world, each and every one of us and every part of creation, enough to die for us; and that this kind of love really and actually can and does change the world. It overcomes violence and hatred, even death (that's why Easter is kind of a big deal).

I'm glad to be an evangelical, especially when I confuse other people who've so narrowly defined in along political, legalistic, and irrational lines. I wouldn't know what else to be, quite honestly. In the same vein, evangelism is the means by which evangelicals share this gospel (good news) with other people. It's the method by which we communicate the love of God to others so they too can understand and be changed by this radical idea.

Now, I chose the word 'idea' very specifically... because it's the wrong word.

For a long time, we evangelicals have taken the notion of evangelism to be mostly an act of the mind. From the very roots of the Reformation, 500 years ago, we've been afraid of looking too "Catholic," which really just means we want to have a very strict division between what we believe and what we do. We're scared of people thinking they can find salvation through good works. Life is not a game of karma - that idea tends to make God's love less radical and more contingent (you know, upon us actually being good people).

So we got all caught up in "believing," in people giving intellectual assent to the idea that God loves them unconditionally and then teaching them a series of (mostly) well-thought-out rational propositions about God and life. We essentially commodified faith and put it through the modern ringer of mass production. The most efficient means of evangelism was then entirely a game of the mind (although we've never been beneath using emotions to open that door to the mind).

None of this was malicious, of course, but it was very influenced by the world in which it emerged - a modern construct heavily centered on truth. It's all about truth. In fact, if you really press people for the simplest definition of evangelism, in a moment where they're not concerned about political correctness or proper marketing, most evangelicals will probably tell you evangelism is all about teaching people the truth.

This is where my thoughts have been for a while - since I guess I'm thoroughly postmodern enough to be uncomfortable with that idea. I'm comfortable enough saying God is truth (absolute truth, if you must) and that Jesus Christ is the embodiment and image of God. I'm less comfortable with the notion that I can or do understand Jesus well enough to properly communicate truth to someone else - at least in the reductionist, definitive way it seems so often presented by evangelicals.

I'm uncomfortable also, that our efforts at evangelism are really attempts to convert someone to our religion, not produce an actual gospel transformation in their lives. All of this is very much intertwined with the way we've combined Christ and Christianity into one entity in recent years - something I've written on before and will certainly write on again (because it's important), but moving beyond that notion here, I want to focus specifically on what conversion means and why we might need a new way of approaching it through evangelism.

I titled this "a new missiology" partly because I hate click-bait titles and I felt like "What's Wrong With Evangelism" might mislead people or create unnecessary controversy. Missiology is, after all, simply the study of evangelism and how the gospel is translated from one people to another (usually across cultures, but not necessarily). Missiology is essentially the study and theory of evangelism. It's our approach to sharing our faith with the world.

I used to be very much in the camp (a very popular one these days) that maintains our evangelism should be that of example. We should live out the love of Christ in our lives and communities and allow this visual, relational embodiment of gospel to influence and transform. I still think this is right - at least far more right that trying to argue or convince someone to assent to a specific set of beliefs. I also think its a beautiful description of the Church - the definition of how Christians should live in the world. God called us to be examples, not converters.

At the same time, I've come to appreciate the purpose of evangelism and the notion of missiology. I just think we need a new way of doing it.

Now, my missiologist friends will probably read this and say, "there's nothing new here;" I'm guessing much of this post could've been reproduced from missiology work done decades ago. It's like old hat in the realm of theory; I doubt it's so well known and accepted in general practice and certainly not by the majority of my fellow evangelicals in the world today. We're still caught up in this notion of being right, finding truth, and communicating such to other people.

I'd like to propose, as we bring the gospel into the world, by all means making it a relational, immersive, and felt experience. Live the gospel; it is THE most effective way to be faithful to Christ and the calling of every Christian. At the same time, this shouldn't make us afraid of or embarrassed by a good conversation. We just need to do it differently.

I'd argue our missiology should be rooted around inviting others to evangelize us. The best spiritual conversations I've ever had are with people who will never be convinced they're wrong - at least not by me. The conversations that prove mutually beneficial to deepen both partis' understanding of truth are those where we focus on disagreements. I want to hear why someone comes to a different conclusion than I do, then dig down into the assumptions and decisions that led to those conclusions to see where we've diverged.

Ultimately, every capable, thinking person makes their own decisions about truth and faith and life. Some people may be persuaded, but it's not because we convince them we're right or properly countered an argument, but because they've seen a different perspective that makes sense. That's what I want - not only for other people, but for myself as well. I want more truth, deeper understanding, better introspection. I want as many perspectives on love and life and truth as possible to best follow the leading of God - to be further evangelized.

This is why I hate apologetics. I don't use the word 'hate' lightly. I think it does nothing by harm and sets back the gospel in the world. Apologetics is essentially the rational argument for faith - it's a tool meant to refute the reasons people have for not believing and to convert them to a specific way of understanding God. It worked well in the modern age of reason and rationality, but I think it's far more beneficial to growing a religion than it is to spreading the gospel.

People just don't work that way.

Listen, I am the most rational, least emotional person you are likely to find (I won't say "in the world" because that's not rational, but I think I'm far enough to the end of the spectrum you're unlikely to find someone farther) - all of that apologetics stuff makes rational sense if you're trying to win some head-counting contest or if you're convinced you've got a handle on absolute truth.

I've just come to realize, in all my rationalization, that you can't reason your way to truth. It's a journey that must, first and foremost, be felt - but also one that doesn't end. I like how Peter Rollins says (quoting from John Caputo, who might've gotten it from someone else) "truth doesn't exist, it insists." If truth existed, we could grasp it, find it, control it, master it. But truth insists - it is constantly pushing us to more and deeper understanding in a spiral that will never end. This is why eternity makes sense to me. There's a lot of rational reasons for not believing in eternity (especially eternal life), but this notion of truth being a destination that never fully arrives is certainly a persuasive argument for it.

I know Christians like to claim "All truth is God's truth" - which is our safe, orthodox, non-idolatrous way of saying the more mystical "God is Truth; Truth is God" - but we're not very good at living it out. Our need for certainty keeps us from engaging in the kind of missiology that, I think, is more honest to the gospel we're trying to communicate.

Ultimately the evangelism we need is not "us" telling "them" what to believe,* not "us" challenging "them" to something new and different - the evangelism we need is challenging ourselves to believe more deeply and thoroughly. By that I mean not us looking for arguments we can tear down to assuage our doubts, but us genuinely exploring those doubts and uncertainties in hopes of finding better and more compelling truth. We can and must do this communally, together. But because we're searching for genuine truth and not interested in winning debates or defending dogma, we can do it with genuinely diverse people. We can use our own search to spur others on to the same kind of introspection and development. In essence, our attempt to be better Christians (or more like Christ) will push Muslims to be better Muslims and Buddhists to be better Buddhists and atheists to be better atheists and in the end, any push toward further development and internal challenge will lead us toward truth - and truth transcends whatever religious system we build around ourselves.

Now, I know, this is going to sound to people like I'm saying all religions lead to God. If you read the blog at all, you know I don't believe that. I do, though, believe that Christ is the embodiment of truth and that all religions, if pursued honestly and with an eye toward truth, will lead to Christ (even if they don't necessarily lead to Christianity). I believe God is calling all people at all times by all means to a greater, deeper, and stronger understanding of this radical love we call gospel - and that we can never get gospel mixed up with doctrine or dogma.

If we can get over that scary notion, perhaps we'll be free to evangelize and be evangelized and maybe, just maybe we'll all become a little more evangelical in the process. And, contrary to the way it looks in the world today, that's a very good thing.

*This is one of, although by far not the only, reason why it incenses me when people call a sermon "teaching" or, even worse, make a sermon "teaching," but that is definitely something for another day.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

The American Spirit Broke America

I read this article in Time by Edward Felsenthal this week. He was talking about the general situation of the Supreme Court now that we're in the midst of a fairly significant transition. He especially talked about the changes made by Scalia's participation on the Court, specifically his penchant for ideology over process or cohesion or compromise. He's oft quoted as saying he's in the business of law to shape ideas, he wrote his scathing, lengthy dissents "for the law books," and didn't care much for deciding cases, but for being right.

Perhaps because of his thirty year tenure in the public eye, his ability to tell a story and ingratiate people to himself, Scalia's been among the most prominent political figures for two generations. He exemplifies the rugged individuality and moral and intellectual superiority that's come to be known as "the American Spirit." Of course, this is not his invention, but his death is an avenue for exploring this singular particularity of our nation... and what affect it's had on our way of life.

We're not a country that tolerates gray areas, at least corporately. Even as we become more comfortable with ambiguity in private, we like to know where we stand when it comes to right and wrong. When we go to war, it's never a complex, multi-faceted issue; it's either pure good or pure evil. When we get hit, we hit back harder. It's this need to win, to be right, to defeat evil and wrong, to punish the enemy - this is the American Spirit and it's pretty much crippled good governance.

Congress is hopelessly mired in gridlock, partly because we've got two entrenched parties who see their only way forward as assuming opposing polarized positions, but also because state level political victories have led to punitive redistricting, which provides most of our Representative virtually no real danger in re-election.

The Presidency has become a game show, with otherwise intelligent egomaniacs fighting over who looks better on camera - which has now culminated in the ultimate channel of the American Spirit reigning on high and espousing exactly the kind of rhetoric we've been taught, deep down, to embrace, but have also been taught not to express out loud. We've got the reality show ringmaster breaking that unwritten rule and the people are just following their training in this combative, superior American Spirit.

Not to get too deep, but we've been seeing it in the Court for a while now. The very fact that we see jurisprudence divided by right and left is indication enough. There are at least five commonly accepted methods of constitutional interpretation - even the "conservative" members of the bench often disagree strongly on how things are decided - but we're more concerned with who's "winning" and who can be proved "right," when right and wrong, for our political and judicial purposes are really just decided by the whims and biases of five people in black robes.

"We can't win unless everyone wins," is usually the response from people like me - re-framing the competitive drive to encompass a more communal outlook on things, but that doesn't go over well with the cowboy ethos of the American Spirit. It becomes a dismissive platitude because it's saying that opponents aren't just wrong, their also ignorant. It's saying, "they'll thank me later." You may have seen the two competing memes that bear this out: "We'll make American great again for you too," or "Elect Bernie so those Trump supporters can get the mental health care they so desperately need."

It's one thing to say: we don't need to be right or to win, or, at the very least, in being right and winning, we don't need to demoralize, dehumanize, and destroy our opponents. That's true, but it just feels so icky to the American Spirit.

Well, it's time we recognize that it's this American Spirit that has broken America. It's not the wackos on the right or the wackos on the left (and they're all wackos to each other). We all embody this win-at-all-costs ethic. That's never going to change until we address the stark individualism that we inherited from the enlightenment.

The founds of the US were almost entirely influenced by French modernism, the triumph of the individual. Our political class might disagree about the extent to which individualism should be protected and catered to, but they all accept it as a core value - even our most popular democratic socialist. Everyone, almost to a person, sees the US as a collection of individuals. We've got it on two levels - we're a collection of individual states, each made up of individuals. This all sounds great in books or in speeches, but we've long seen, addressed, and quietly ignored the real problems this presents.*

We might be able to address that notion of everyone wins or no one does, but we can't do it with the individualism inherent in the modern American system. We can't see the whole as a collection of individuals, but an indivisible singularity (and we can't just see America this way; we sort of have to see all of existence this way). It's really the only answer.

I don't mean that we should forget individuality, but that we need to understand our individuality only exists as we participate in the whole. You can't actually separate any individual from the whole - at least outside of a philosophy textbook.

That's the reality. Our American Spirit leads us to deny this with every fiber of our being, but reality bears out the result of that stubbornness. We're looking it in the face right now, in every form and facet of government. I suppose it's not unique to America - it's the spirit seen in every empirical nation in history, the sense of superiority and dominance - but it's always been couched in selfishness, in focus on the individual - whether it was the individual monarch in years past of the individual everyman that rules modern democratic thought.

We've gotten what we deserve, but it doesn't have to be this way. The question is whether we're capable of doing the hard work it takes to change the very core of our being and thus the core of a nation.

*Look up "tyranny of the majority" sometime - it's far too off topic fort his post, but it presents one of those gray areas we've lived in since 1776 and just refuse to talk about.