By: Ric Hudgens
Editor's Note: This article is Part Three of a three-part series of Jesus Radicals contributors responding to the 2016 election. Part One, "White Supremacy: Insecurity with Lethal Consequences" and Part Two, "Can You Hear Us Now?"
In the next four years we will learn the difference between electing a recurring problem and electing an original threat.
Hillary Clinton as President would have been enormously problematic. I was not a fan. I supported Bernie Sanders - the first time I’ve supported a traditional party candidate since Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign. Was Sanders that much better than Clinton? No and yes. Sanders was just as tone deaf on race and Palestine as Clinton; but he brought some distinctive strengths and a message that might (just might) have defeated he-who-shall-not-be-named.
It has been an election of Independents running in traditional parties. One did remarkably well and barely lost to an establishment Democrat. The other Independent defeated every traditional Republican challenger and to everyone’s astonishment including his own ascended to the White House. Both traditional parties are left in confusion.
We have elected a threat and not just a traditional threat. Yes, racism is as old as Jamestown. True, racists have been in the White House before. But the combination of blatant white supremacy with one party rule, control of the Supreme Court, and the power of contemporary surveillance and weaponry poses a nightmare scenario previously unknown. We are in deep shit.
Clinton's election would have required the ongoing maturity of a left alternative. But the pending inauguration of this President Elect requires it immediately. We Christian radicals are called to counter a counter-narrative: to join the opposition to an anarcho-capitalist regime. Who da thunk it? What should we do? Since I’m being asked I’ll tell you what I think.
There is a need to grieve for sure and a little acting out in the streets is understandable. But disgust, anger, and fear are not going to destroy the Death Star. In fact being stuck there will only play into their hands. This is a teachable moment.
The election has desecrated some established anarchist myths about contemporary electoral politics. Many of us have been telling ourselves for years that it’s a fool’s game. That the difference between the two parties is negligible. That only an insider can win. That the system is rigged.
Those platitudes never served justice very well. They made too many passive, encouraged withdrawal and became self-fulfilling. Maybe now we can now embrace the constructive hypothesis that history is not predetermined and that as Vincent Harding suggested: “America” is still possible.
Radical independents can exercise significant democratic influence - not bringing heaven to earth but at least protecting our children, keeping our water clean, and doing the things that make other things possible.
Christian radicalism must disavow fatalistic narratives. It’s ironic that the conservative Christian right is explicitly fatalistic and yet managed to stage a white supremacist coup. Meanwhile, the Christian left conducts lofty exchanges on process theology and open theism yet remains politically flaccid.
We need to embrace a healthy agnosticism about the end of history. We don’t know what’s possible. Love calls us into the public square - certainly not to control but to contribute and to make a difference where we can for the common good.
I’m not suggesting that radical Christians sell out to representative democracy. I am suggesting, for the love of God and neighbor, more responsible investing. I urge radical Christians to collaborate more energetically, diligently, and expansively wherever we can to hold this emerging fascist state in check, to model alternative structures, and to continually work towards a major shift in consciousness about our collective future.
I’ve almost stopped talking about anarchism because it feels like such a sectarian conversation. I’m already a Mennonite. I don’t need another sectarian circle to confine me. The pursuit of “radical democracy” can incorporate anarchistic, decentralist principles through collaboration with others who may have no interest in either anarchism or Christianity.
We have a very hard four years ahead of us. For those who are not well insulated by wealth and privilege there will be much suffering. Much blood will be shed. No one can know ahead of time precisely how the threat this Administration poses is going to unfold. However, Maya Angelou reminds us that when someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.
I keep remembering that scene in the sci-fi film Serenity where Captain Malcolm Reynolds tells his crew: “Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again . . . So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave.”
Closer to home (in the real rather than virtual world) I was at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation two weeks ago where the Dakota Access Pipeline is being nonviolently opposed with courage and prayer. Every morning just before sunrise the voice of the Elder came over the loudspeaker waking us with the words: “Sun dancers, get up! Pipe carriers, get up! Christians, dust off your Bible and get up! You are here for a reason. The black snake is getting near the river. Get up and do something! This is a good day.”
Despair is not a weapon.
We will be saved through radical faith, radical hope, and radical love.
Get up my friends. We are here for a reason.
Ric Hudgens is a Mennonite pastor, an adjunct professor, and a published poet. In his spare time he herds turtles.
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