Lesson 11: Overcoming Our Political Divisions (Part 1)

Martin Luther King Jr.Just about every time I’ve spoken about Christian Nationalism, people ask how are we ever going to heal the political divisions afflicting our society? They are especially concerned because many believe it cannot be done without violence. Some even talk of civil war.

I found myself wondering about that question at the annual Martin Luther King celebrations this year. The more I study Christian Nationalists, the more I realize we are engaged in a civil rights struggle. Just about every article or post includes an attack on Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, or some LGBQT issue. That really came home to me when two people in the past week said inadvertently that they appreciated what I was writing about White Nationalists. I think somewhere below the surface, we all know there is a lot of racism and bigotry going on.

The realization that came to me during the celebrations was that we seem to assume we shall overcome the divisions by talking one-on-one with individuals from the opposition. The civil rights movement of the last century had a completely different agenda. It was based on a carefully orchestrated program.

I first became aware of that when I met so many blacks studying law while I spent a summer in Manhattan. Later, Dr King regularly contracted my divinity school announcing the next march and the need for support so he could keep it nonviolent. Those who participated were trained and told not to get involved unless they were willing to follow a strict discipline.

Th training included an understanding captured in the sermon “Loving Your Enemies.” “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction… love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy be getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.”

The sermon also implied the commitment to nonviolence that might involve suffering. “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force… Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. But be assured that we shall wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”

Christian Nationalist types think advocating nonviolence is naive. They call for a masculine Christianity that is not afraid to use violent language and actions. Supporting the Second Amendment is an essential part of their program.

If there is anything naive about our position, it is not nonviolence. It was used in the fairly bloodless revolutions that overcame colonialism in India and apartheid in South Africa. Our naivety might be assuming we can proceed without expending much time or energy and without any organization.

Christian Nationalist types, way back in the middle of the 20th century, called for organized efforts to take over school boards and local governments. Now they are very prominent in national politics. Some participate in highly organized militias. More coordinate efforts through social media. The January 6 insurrection showed they can bring people together from every corner of our nation. It might very well be naive to think “we shall overcome” by simply urging people to vote in the next election. About a week ago, Debra Smith spoke about how the Nazi Final Solution could take place in Germany. She mused all sides felt it could never happen either to them or their friends down the street.

Overcoming our deep political divisions is probably not going to happen by our simply sitting back and waiting. There is a need for a leader to emerge who will orchestrate a coordinated program. Nonetheless, let me go on next week looking at what individuals can do right now.

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  1. paul wildman says:

    Thanks Fritz. I read recently that one way to neuter MLK was for Regan to give his ‘memeory’ its own day i.e. MLK day. This immediately diverts attention from his radical challenges to the Status Quo to internalise it into a group hug so to speak. This was/is a profoundly smart move as one could say that ‘all opposition is controlled opposition’. MLK and JC provided alternatives not opposition. IMO.

    The political differences you allude to are minute the sociological ones aren’t. (if i can make such a position with out contradiction) both sides are staunchly NeoLiberal that is neither wishes to touch the underlying free enterprise system – same property rights, same money system, same belief in the market. MLK challenged all these as did Jesus.

    So the differences are smoke and mirrors so the rhetoric about difference in the US is about 80% hot air. Again IMO from outside. Further all the rhetoric on differences shifts focus to the 20% and away from the commonalities of NeoLiberalism and even more worrying the issues of Ecocide and Ukraine and overpopulation and species extinction hmmm didn’t even notice this elision was happening did we?

    I submit the macro system will not change and we need to start developing a new system in parallel from within. EG intentional networked communities say.

    Hope this is of some assistance in your good work mate ciao paul ps written from the vantage point of Australia

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