Ideological fights are exhausting

Richard Rohr has a daily meditation. Recently he quoted Barbara Holmes, who had this to say:

“Throughout recorded history people have subjugated, enslaved, and at times even exterminated one another. Sometimes these acts were committed in the name of a king or queen, other times in the name of a tribe or country. Often they were committed in the name of God. Always they were done to consolidate and expand the power of a select few. Always, vast numbers of people died for no good reason. Always, even a greater number of people needlessly suffered to sate the appetites of that select group. These are crimes against humanity, and these crimes continue to be executed across our planet to this day.

“Furthermore, these crimes are perpetrated in a seemingly never-ending cycle. The powerful oppress the less powerful, who in turn oppress those even less powerful than they. [RR: We see this often even within families!] These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches and are passed down through generations, robbing us of our humanity. . . .”

Right on target Barbara. How often are we fighting battles that are ultimately pointless? Why are we so prone to fighting anyway? Especially when it is someone else’s battle.

There are plenty of people who go around and say “Don’t tell me what to do,” yet I often hear these same people who seem more than willing to fight someone else’s fight.

But I have to remind myself – ideological arguments are not based on consistency. They are based on protecting the holder of the ideology. They are based on the defender of the ideology assuming they are right and everyone else is wrong. Ideology more often than not is more concerned with separating people into groups – those who are right and those who are wrong, us and them.

I think this is why I’m tired of so many ideological fights. They are predictable. Even in their inconsistency. All that matters is that they are the opposite of their opposing views. It doesn’t matter that there are contradictions. Too exhausting.

There are two parts that strike me about Holmes’ statement. 1. “the vast number died for no good reason.” We are so willing to fight for causes that in the long run are mute. We are willing to die for countries that at some point won’t exist. We’re willing to make enemies over issues that won’t matter. We’re willing to end relationships over stuff that just isn’t important. But we sure do enjoy feeling justified in our anger and hatred and willingness to fight, don’t we?

The second statement that struck me was: “These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches and are passed down through generations…” How interesting that we can read this and agree with it, yet make plenty of arguments in opposition. I hear people say that blacks should get over slavery, since no one alive was a slave. Out of the same mouths come arguments of why we need to keep Confederate statues up, even though the Confederacy was rightly defeated and dismantled after only 5 years of being in existence. Yet here we are about 150 years after the Civil War still fighting the ideology of the Confederacy. It’s almost as if the Confederacy and everything it stood for is a cycle of oppression that left scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embedded themselves in our collective psyches and have been passed down through the generations.

I for one believe in generational trauma. You don’t have to experience the trauma directly to be traumatized. The Confederacy inflicted a trauma on this nation that we have not yet healed from. And in some cases we aren’t interested in healing from.

Families experience generational trauma. Just ask anyone who has some kind of medical history in their family. Why wouldn’t the same be true of something like racism too? And this means that societies experience this as well.

Which leaves me wondering – how much brokenness is there in the world? Yet we keep turning to the false saviors to either make all things right or to distract us from our brokenness instead of dealing with it. We turn to war and military might, oppressing people, plenty of -isms, money, work, consuming, partisanship, nationalism, etc. And they all end up the same way – lacking. Because they can’t save us. When we make them more than what they are, they end up causing even more harm.

Unfortunately we can’t escape them either. But we can approach them differently – not by turning ourselves into them. But rather by casting a vision, or getting on board of a vision for a better way of being. And living into it as if it already is. And that’s exactly what we are called to. We can’t just be against the assortment of things. That won’t carry us forward. It won’t keep us going. But a vision will. The vision I attach myself too is what Jesus talked about – the reign of God, or the Kingdom of God. It’s a vision of shalom – which means wholeness and completeness. It’s a vision of healing. It’s a vision of thriving life. It’s a vision of healthy culture and community. It’s a vision of enough. It’s a vision of care for others. I invite you into this vision. Let’s figure out how to do this, together.

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