Faith Works: Trying to get some perspective on the precipice – The Newark Advocate

faith-works:-trying-to-get-some-perspective-on-the-precipice-–-the-newark-advocate

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Jeff Gill
 |  Guest ColumnistThis was going to be a three column series, but it sure just grew to four after the feedback I got from last week’s initial offering.Starting out to try to outline some of the problems with critical race theory, and nodding to my intended course of inviting you all to think about critical theory, I got a torrent of reaction which kind of made my point by making a completely different one.What I heard in different forms from literally across the country (the internet is a wonderful thing) was this: Jeff, you need to understand something. Liberalism is being taught in our schools and institutions and churches, and we are tired of feeling dismissed and demeaned.And that’s the point I was trying to get at, actually. The legislative let alone rhetorical excesses in trying to find a way to ban critical race theory, so-called, are all intended as a means to build a wall against the perceived influx of progressive viewpoints.It’s always risky to generalize from online reactions. As is well-known, but can’t be repeated too often, Pew Research did a deep data dive in 2019 and found Twitter users on political topics were 6% of all U.S. adults, and within that small segment they tended to the extremes, ideologically. I think you can extrapolate that in a variety of directions. So reading my inbox and messages may not be a fair sample of American thinking.What I do suspect is that the emphatically aligned in politics line up fairly closely with the intensely engaged in social debates, religious or civic. And before I get done here, I plan to reassert what I keep banging my little drum about, which is that the vast broad wide open middle ground may not be as prominent in these online debates, but in terms of living our way into how to be a functioning community, the annoyingly squishy moderates need to have some kind of a voice.If you’re thinking “he’s just asserting that, he can’t prove there are that many in the middle,” my immediate and crushing retort is that this is how I see everyone on either end of the spectrum talking, so I’m just taking my turn. My strong suspicion is that extreme views, left or right, that insist they speak for multitudes, or history, or invisible multitudes, are also just asserting things. We will see how this all actually plays out.But I am not angry, nor am I arguing any bad faith per se, when I want to point out after skimming my inbox: critical race theory is not the actual motivating issue. It’s the debate over expanding views and perspectives, which has been going on in one form or another since the Enlightenment got rolling, just in a particular set of terms today.For most of my life, which relatively speaking is a wisp and a vapor and a flickering light on the stolid granite rock face of history, during that possibly short time in human terms, I’ve been temperamentally a conservative. Some may laugh reading that, but it’s true. Conservatism, to be sure, is about conserving things. There are certain values and priorities we’ve developed over time that we should be cautious about casting aside just because there are new points of view. Affirming the place of faith in God, a God who is good, whose goodness has a human expression to which we can turn: I’d like to conserve that.Conserving doesn’t mean imposing, though. It does mean preserving a space where people can freely continue with views that may be out of step with modern innovations. That extends from conserving wilderness when we can — think the conservation movement, which has a history all its own — to conserving space for the Amish and dissenters and believers of even peculiar faiths. That’s conservatism in essence.So when people say “I want to support legislative initiatives which hold back the tide of radical change and resist an insistence on inclusivity even of views I reject” I don’t think they’re wrong, per se, I just think the political agenda may be at odds with the religious priorities we should affirm.Or to put my cards on the table, if theocentric believers are a minority, I think we need to look differently at the landscape, culturally and politically, than we did when we had or presumed we were the majority.Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and preacher in central Ohio; he’s trying to take the long view, which isn’t always a political let alone practical winner. Tell him how you see things at [email protected] or follow @Knapsack77 on Twitter.
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