Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 21, 2008

Waiting On the World to Change (No… Let’s not wait, let’s work!)

 Over on the MySpace side of this blog, my nephew Caleb made a useful comment on my “Democracy Is…” blog entry from a few days ago. In writing back to him, I realized I wanted to elevate the exchange from just a comment and response to an actual new blog entry, since I ended up stating my spiritual and political goals for the blog in brief but clear terms. So here’s what we wrote:

— — — — First Caleb:

I can see where you are coming from with this blog, but I would have to say that the problem of a self-centered culture is a human flaw not a political one. Communism in theory is the best, equal rights, equal opportunity, loving each other, governmental system to be thought up and practiced. Just this one problem: man.
There are many many horrible things that our country has done in the past and arguably still today. But if you go through every countries history you will find horror stories: massacres, oppression, etc. I don’t mean to be dogging on what you said. You brought up good points. I am merely tired of everyone always hating on America. Not matter what changes, there will still be problems. Because the problem lies with the people not the system.
On the other hand we can be the answer to a lot of problems. But I don’t think that this will come from us hating America and saying “Oh well democracy clearly doesn’t work! Let’s let others make decisions for us with out us controlling any of it.” And that’s the vibe that I pick up from this blog.
I respect your opinion and would probably agree with you on several issues, but I can’t see why you feel this way about “democracy.”
idk just food for thought. Hope you guys are doing well, Love Caleb

Posted by Caleb on February 17, 2008 – Sunday at 4:31 PM

— — —

And my response:

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere!

I like your response. And yes, I admit I do have a love-hate relationship with my country and its systems… both economic and political. But it is mostly a loving relationship. I want to be the “answer to some problems”, as you’ve said, and teach others to do the same. So constructive criticism and Christian witness/concern have a significant role in how I relate to both people and institutions.

Based on the blog alone, it may be hard to see a distinction between my approach of “involved dissent” and the usual hateful (but casual) complaint by some middle class liberal afraid to get his or her hands dirty. But it’s precisely because I believe in the promise of America that I want to hold us (and myself) to a higher standard. And I’m not calling for a different system, just a better execution of the one we’ve got, where MORE people care enough to love their neighbor as themselves. A system where, for example , we can see Sly Stallone’s new Rambo rampage through Southeast Asia for the ridiculous warmongering propaganda and selfish grab for cash that it is.

It’s true we’ve got a system that’s better (more fair, more merciful, more generous) than most throughout history, and in some ways it’s still best in the world. But I refuse to rest on those laurels. We can still do better. We can build little mini-communities of change. We can share. We can listen to each other. We can stop hitting each other (and other nations). We can do all those things that we were supposed to learn back in kindergarten, but apparently forgot. That’s mostly what I’m saying, hopefully with a sense of humor and not a spirit of hate.

Nor do I expect everyone to get it. As you’ve said, there will still be problems, even with an educated and involved citizenry. Because as you imply, we’re all sinners, even those of us with good intentions –which may be a group that’s growing, or dwindling, depending on your opinion… personally I don’t know if we’re becoming kinder or more hardened and cruel as a culture, I see evidence of both. So who knows how much better we can make life anyway. I have cynicism about human nature, but also grudging respect, for both American citizens and for people around the world. Humans everywhere have a God-given dignity that should not be trampled. I suppose that also includes the dignity of the misguided average American trying to keep up with the Joneses, the ones who usually take that “America, love it or get out” sort of attitude. I just don’t see many of those folks acting on that whole “government of, by and for the people” idea. 

Ordinary people  have too narrow a definition of their own mission and potential. They’re not looking beyond their backyard barbecues. They’re not going to Jamaica for ministry as you did. Because they feel powerless, they’re not doing what they can to rescue others from the ravages of undemocratic despotism, hunger, disease, environmental destruction, and the many other symptoms of our sinful tendencies. It’s easier to be nationalistic, and to feather our own nests. But we’re not called to do what’s easy, we’re called to do what’s right, to let the Spirit lead us out into the boonies and preach, cast out “demons”, do whatever needs doing to advance the kingdom and mercy of God .


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