The divide between those on the political left and those on the political right has grown into an almost impassable chasm. Now, as I write this I almost want to roll my eyes. I have heard this so often that I get tired of talking about it. When people write about the political divide they all too often make it sound like there are two equally entrenched sides, refusing to bend to reasonable compromise. I don’t buy it.
We have one side – the far right – that is frankly off the rails when it comes to any acceptance of reality and their politics has become violent and frightening. In fact, I am not sure calling them “far right” is accurate. I don’t see them as conservative. They seem more interested in some weird form of fascism with racist hatred as a cornerstone. Regardless, their obsession with putting people who clearly lack skills in governance or leadership (or empathy or compassion) into positions with real power makes them dangerous.
Thus, in response to the obsession of this group, liberals have entrenched themselves to try and defeat them. What has started concerning me is that I keep hearing from liberals saying there is only one possible response in our current political stalemate: to decisively defeat trump and stamp out the “maga movement” once and for all. Of course, this was supposed to have happened in 2020 when donald trump was decisively defeated and actually, since the mid-term elections in 2018, the trump-inspired maga movement has known only defeat. Seriously, in terms of movements, this is one loser of a movement. They can’t really win anything.
I am not suggesting we do not have anything to fear. I am merely stating the obvious. I am impressed that a movement that loses so much should continue to have followers. But what has started to bother me lately is that liberals are more and more mimicking the bloodlust of the right when it comes to political engagement.
When I was entrenched in evangelicalism I heard over and over the need to make disciples of Jesus, but in reality that mostly meant that we were sent to transform people into our image who shared our values, maintained our attitudes and opinions, and were fearful of what we were fearful of, etc. It was colonialism via behavior modification. We wanted to win Muslims to Christ, but if they resisted, then we (evangelicals) were cool with invading their countries and commandeering their resources (oil).
This was and is a politics of destruction. Either you submit or you lose your culture, identity, and perhaps even your life. And I am seeing and hearing this now increasingly from those on the left and it is disconcerting. Even on political talk shows on MSNBC the talking points by the hosts and guests alike focus on the point that the only way to get rid of trumpism is to defeat donald trump and his minions once and for all and then and only then, Republicans will magically decide that they will abandon all that has characterized the majority of the party in the last 6+ years.
Yeah, pull my other leg and it’ll play Jingle Bells.
There is just not a lot of historical evidence that transformation comes out of destruction. Rarely, if ever, does a group of people suffer physical, economic, or political destruction and then suddenly decide to change their basic values and allegiances. Transformation does not come out of destruction. Further violence comes out destruction, but not transformation.
So, you ask, what is it we do?
Well, I would first point out that transforming Republicans into reasonable and thoughtful leaders concerned about people should not be the focus of a politics of transformation. Transformative politics – unlike the politics of destruction – centers those who are on the margins, those denied access to resources needed to live in abundance. As we follow Jesus and redemptively use our access to resources to gain that same access to those same resources for those whose access have been restricted or denied, then we can invite others to join us in the work that mutually transforms everyone it touches. Even maga-inspired, America-First, trumpists.
There has not been a time when I have engaged in advocacy alongside those on society’s margins where I have not been transformed in some way. And because I have been transformed, I want others to experience this as well!
Transformation only has the possibility to happen when it is accompanied by invitation. So, as politically irrelevant as it might be nowadays and as naive as I might sound, I believe the only way forward is through a politics of transformation that comes through invitation.