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Peace and the Empire

by Berry Friesen (October 16, 2017)

How do you describe the relationship between the US-led empire and world peace?

Robert Kagan, the neoconservative lobbyist who has advised Democrat and Republican presidents, put it this way in 2012:

“The present world order—characterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powers—reflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions. If American power declines, this world order will decline with it.”

Former President Barack Obama holds a very similar view, as quoted from his January 20, 2017 transition letter to President Donald Trump:

“American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, 
through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily
 since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend”
.
The claim that the US-led empire makes the world more stable and peaceful strikes me as utter nonsense.  Yet among the political elite, it's conventional wisdom.  Why?

Let’s quickly list some of the emotional reasons.  (1) It reflects what we all learned in school: America ends wars and ushers in peace. (2) It’s reiterated constantly by media propaganda. (3) It’s pleasing to our vanity. (4) It provides a moral justification for our consumption of a hugely disproportionate share of the world’s resources. (5) It makes all of us wealthier than we would otherwise be.  (6) It makes us feel important, giving meaning to our lives. (7) We live at the center of the empire, not at the edges where the empire is most brutal.

A sophisticated rationale has been cobbled together in support of this claim that the empire bring peace.  The first part has been articulated by a handful of scholars, including Steven Pinker in his 2011 bookThe Better Angels of our Nature:  A History of Violence and Humanity.  Pinker asserts that due to various “civilizing” factors—especially the increasing power of the nation state and its near monopoly of force—the percentage of the human population killed in violent conflicts has been dropping steadily through the centuries and years. *

The second part of the pro-empire rationalization (not necessarily Pinker’s) is implied by the quote from Kagan:  the international leadership of the US empire keeps the lid on international conflict. In other words, the US is the “big dog” that keeps the fights among the quarrelsome “little dogs” from getting out of hand.

This association of “peace” with “empire” is hugely consequential. Essayist Caitlin Johnstone explains.

“The fact of the matter is that America is conducting a nonstop campaign to destabilize, manipulate, bully and control other nations to prevent the rise of a new rival superpower, and many Americans would rather it keep doing so. I can’t tell you how many Americans I’ve encountered while sharing my anti-war message who have said ‘Yeah, I agree war is bad and we’ve done some awful shit… but if the world is going to have a top dog controlling its affairs, I’d rather it be America’.”

Johnstone's most important point follows:

“The crux of the issue is that you cannot want America to remain the world’s only powerful force and also be anti-war at the same time. These are necessarily two mutually exclusive ideals. One of the crucial ways that America remains on top is by keeping potential rivals off-balance using endless war in key strategic locations — if you stop the US war machine from doing this, you cripple America’s ability to ensure that it remains the world’s only superpower.

“No anti-war philosophy is complete unless it directly addresses this fundamental reality. If you want America to remain the world’s leader while also wanting America to stop waging endless wars based on lies, you’re not anti-war, you’re a vapid, cutesy vanity politics airhead sharing social media-friendly bumper sticker ideals with nothing behind them. You don’t want the killing to stop, you just want to look like someone who wants the killing to stop.”

And Johnstone adds this:

“So the question being asked of all peace-loving Americans, really, is this: 
are you courageous enough to relinquish your attachment to the neoconservative notion 
that America should be the world’s only superpower? Are you truly anti-war, 
or are you a neocon with a ‘Coexist’ bumper sticker?”

Is Johnstone exaggerating the empire's malignance?  Not at all.

Consider first a few of the many historical events that demonstrate how the American Empire behaves:

--Wars of aggression against Korea (1950-present), Vietnam (1955-1975) and Iraq (2003-present);
--A strong alliance with the dictatorial House of Saud, the world’s primary source of Islamic terrorism;
--Active cooperation with and support for al-Qaeda or Daesh in Kosovo, Chechnya, Libya and Syria;
--Covert collaboration with criminal networks moving narcotics from Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Latin America into Western consumer markets;
--Deployment of Special Operations Forces in 138 countries (2016); currently bombing (including drone assassinations) in seven majority-Muslim countries;
--Overthrown 35 governments since World War 2 including Iran, Congo, Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Venezuela, Libya and Ukraine. **

Then consider the human impact of the empire’s actions in the post-World War 2 era:

--4 million killed in Korea
--6 million killed in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
--1 million+ killed in Iraq
--10 million killed in US-led proxy wars (e.g., Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Libya and Syria).***

These partial lists demolish our Pollyannaish view of the US-led empire. In 1967 the Rev. Dr. M.L. King said the US is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”  How long will we continue to deny this still remains true today?

For the last word, let’s return to Caitlin Johnstone.

“The reason the US power establishment works so hard to manufacture public support for its wars is that it needs that support. The public can make things very, very difficult for the war machine if it stops listening to the propaganda lullabies and decides enough is enough. But that can’t happen as long as the American people are living in fear of the rest of the world. If you want peace, at some point you’re going to have to get okay with letting the world manage its own affairs. There will be no significant peace movement in America until this happens.”
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*     To read vigorous critiques of Pinker’s work (including his emphasis on “battlefield deaths”), see John Arquilla’s “The Big Kill” and Michael Mann’s “Have Wars and Violence Declined?


*** See “US has Killed More than 20 Million People in 37 ‘Victim Nations’ Since WW2” by James A. Lucas.

Communities of Nonviolence

by John K. Stoner (October 13, 2017)

Nonviolence is the decision to live without committing homicidal violence.

It is comparable to the familiar choices to live without committing rape, or slavery, or robbery.  The decision to live without killing other people does not seem, on the one hand, to be very radical, but on the other, it is very radical indeed.

OUR HUMAN SELVES

We are all familiar with communities which have a covenant between members, spoken or unspoken, to not kill each other.  Families, schools and universities, and corporations of all kinds are committed to nonviolence in their social practice.  They count on the powerful nonviolent instincts of 99+% of all people, whose default position upon waking and facing the day is to preserve, not destroy, the lives of all the people whom they meet that day.  All of this we pretty much take for granted—not very radical.

But for some reason, or maybe no reason at all, this basic human decency toward one another breaks down when we bring kings and presidents into the picture.  We take it for granted that “heads of state” can decide that their citizens should set upon each other in total savagery, killing without restraint or remorse (the latter, however, being quite impossible, as veterans know).  And for anyone to refuse to do this killing is viewed as radical indeed, treasonous and offensive in the extreme.  Nonviolence, so universally affirmed on the local level, is dismissed as radical and repugnant on the global level where millions, not one or a few, lives hang in the balance.  

For the future of humanity we need to condemn war as surely as we have  condemned rape, slavery and theft. 

We have only to consult human nature, and for those open to it, God, to see that a practical alternative to war (and all homicidal violence) is available.  It is a matter of choice--which of our impulses to follow--and of helping one another make the choice for life in face of so much energy and wealth in our culture committed to the ways of death.

There is within humans the capacity to live without committing rape, slavery and theft.  And as families, schools and corporate organization show, humans have the capacity to live without homicidal violence.   If it is argued that only because law is added to human capacity do humans refrain from rape, slavery and theft, it follows that to deal with war we will have to add law to restrain it.  But the basic point remains (as those who have studied it carefully will tell you), law alone will not prevent any human behavior which is not generally within both the ability and the will of humans themselves to perform.  And the converse is true, that whatever is within human ability to do can be outlawed by the choice of a community, group or society to do so.

NONVIOLENT COMMUNITIES

We need, therefore, voluntary communities where nonviolence is embraced and taught as surely as simple living (previous blog) is taught.  There are alternatives to predatory capitalism and endless war.  It is time to grow up, mature, and accept our responsibility to let others live as we wish them to let us live. 

In the past 2000 years a succession of communities called churches have lived lives of active nonviolence, embracing forgiveness, courage and love as human powers to turn enemies into friends and enlarge the circle of compassionate humanity.  In the past several hundred years the “peace churches” (Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren) have taken Jesus’ message of the kingdom/sovereignty of God as their paradigm of communal life, embracing active nonviolence and refusing the inducements and enforcements of hierarchy and empire, slavery and racism.  Today an increasing number of churches follow the example of leaders like Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh (Hanh of course not a Christian) in taking the teachings of Jesus seriously—generosity, forgiveness and love of enemies. 

People who choose to join such communities are embracing the connectedness of all of humanity, applying  the nonviolent commitments of family, school and workplace to neighborhood, nation and world.  They see all homicide as fratricide, all war as civil war, all killing as within the family and ultimately as suicidal as it is homicidal.  People  join such communities to find nurture for the impulses which they feel toward welcoming and forgiving others as they wish to be welcomed and forgiven themselves.  

There is a streak of humility in what they do, because they have to acknowledge as well their persisting impulses toward fear and rejection of others, and their need for the wisdom and voices of peers who share their vision of humanity as a large family rather than a population of predators.  They have to be honest about the fact that humans are vastly shaped by the cultures in which they live, so they choose a culture whose posture is toward living rather than killing, life rather than death. By joining a peace community they acknowledge the impact of ideologies, TV, media and peers to shape them into something other than what, at the deepest level, they wish to be—they choose, in effect, the influences which will shape their lives, rather than leaving it to chance and dumb luck.  

THE GOD FACTOR

We have looked at humans and what they have and need to aim their lives toward nonviolence rather than homicidal violence and  ultimately war.

If we look toward God, as most American claim to do in one way or another, we find either help or discouragement toward living a nonviolent life, depending on our view of God.  Is God violent or nonviolent?  Which makes our view of God rather decisive, right?  So we conclude our look at the nonviolent community with a look at God.

Rob Bell has written a book titled WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT GOD.  God of course is a big subject.  But any effort to talk about everything—time, space, human consciousness, past history and future prospects—is big, and if you don’t name all of that with a word like god, you are still left with a big subject.  

God, then, says Rob Bell, is the everything which has produced us and our consciousness, and further, God is with, for and ahead of us. 

Bell self-identifies as a Christian, but honesty compels us to say that that is no more definitive than if he called himself religious or itinerant.  He writes the book to position himself as a Christian with a particular view of God, which he says is shaped by the life and teachings of Jesus.  And from Jesus he comes out with a definition of God as with, for and ahead of us.

My brief summary of his argument here will show that his view of God is in opposition to that held by much or most of American Christianity, and hence, a view of God supportive of a nonviolent alternative to empire as the way to run the world. 

First, God as “with” us arises from the notion of incarnation itself—that Jesus as “the son of man,” or “the human one,” shows in human flesh what the true character of God is.   And the teaching of Jesus was not only that God dwelled in him, but that God is resident in every human being.  God, therefore, is not far from us, but is within us.  Hence, the “search” for God is not a process of looking somewhere else for God, but of seeing God within, both ourselves and others.  And if God is in others, killing others would never be a good idea or an acceptable practice.

Second, God “for” us picks up Jesus’ teaching that God is like the father of the “prodigal” son, always seeking and welcoming us.  God is not a threatening, punishing God, holding the prospect of “hell” over us, but rather the always forgiving one.  Jesus’ teaching that we should forgive one another endlessly (70 x 7) grew out of his view that God forgives that way.  In evolutionary terms, this “for” comes through in the tilt of the universe toward life—whatever else may be said of the evolutionary process, it produced, in the end, us, as well as everything else.  That is not a small thing to be taken for granted, right?

Third, God “ahead” of us projects into our evolutionary future something good—an extrapolation from what evolution/time has produced so far.  This is more obviously relevant to the species, less so to the individual—I would say that some reticence about predicting our individual future is appropriate.  But the fundamental point is that God is future oriented, and we should be the same.  The universe is not static, stuck in the past or sameness, but is moving toward something.  Likewise, human experience, history and culture—going somewhere, and we are engaged in creating that which is to come.  

In conclusion, a nonviolent definition of power to effect change rests in largely untapped human capacities, is nurtured in communities committed to active nonviolence, and reflects the mind of God properly understood—it agrees with the long-term tilt of the universe.  

























In These Times

by Berry Friesen (October 9,  2017)

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves,
so that when it is gone, you always will be welcomed.”  Luke 16:9

Last week Chris Hedges posted an essay about the approaching collapse of the US-led empire.  You’re not into gloom?  Me neither.  Yet I encourage you to read Hedges' “The End of Empire.”  Big changes are coming our way here in America; it’s time to begin thinking about how to protect and nurture what's important to us.

Here are a couple of quotes from Hedges’ article.

“The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars
 in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts.”

“The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.” *

University of Wisconsin professor Dr. Alfred W. McCoy “predicts the collapse will come by 2030.” As he puts it: “So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed.”

Between now and then, the US is a great threat to us (e.g., the recent Las Vegas shooter(s)**) and to the world (e.g., Syria, Korea, Iran, Venezuela).  Hedges explains and gives us a visual from “Mr. Fish:”

“Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.”

Image result for "will destroy the world for money" picture

We have 13 years to get ready, according to McCoy.  How do we use the time well?

To engage in that sort of thoughtful planning, we need to imagine how the collapse of the empire will alter the experience of living here in America. Obviously, many scenarios are possible, some of which are pretty awful.  But it would be a mistake, I think, to assume that everything we depend on today will disappear when the empire collapses. There still will be a functioning economy of sorts, and much that we see around us will still be here.

Yet the trends we already are experiencing—privatization of public goods, the decline of concern for the general well-being, the formation of oligarchic fiefdoms that are a law unto themselves, the co-option of law enforcement and the military for private purposes, the contempt for those who lack the technical skills and cynicism to “succeed”—will accelerate with blinding speed.

I imagine it will be like Russia during the ‘90s or Ukraine today.  Governments (federal, state and local) will be zombified, incapable of providing even the most basic services.  Wealthy oligarchs will effectively create their own statelets where their crimes, corruption and arbitrary decrees will be enforced by intimidation and resources looted from the Pentagon.  “Succeeding" in such a world will entail attaching oneself to a one of these quasi-criminal fiefdoms.  Some people will flourish and claim personal credit for their success; many more will be cut off from any sort of broader economic opportunity—losers in a world that has become unabashedly Darwinian.

And what about us—followers of Jesus, seekers of the Light, those who do NOT mourn the loss of empire, but see it as birth pangs of a better world?  I’m assuming we won’t attach ourselves to one of the fiefdoms on offer. How then will we flourish and thrive?

With the help of friends and acquaintances.  Not just a handful, but many. We will flourish and thrive to the extent that we know, trust, equip, invest in and protect one another. Serious, purposeful community--with people near and far--will be the key.  That’s at least part of what Jesus meant in the epigraph above.

And between now and then?  We ought to get started; this will take some time.  Stop elaborating our distinctive and separate identities (religious, partisan, color, ethnicity, gender, etc.) and begin building community and cultural capital. We’re going to need one another.

Much more could and should be said.  John has been saying some of it with his posts on community and simple living (here, here and here).  Yes, it's very basic in one sense and can easily be dismissed as not up to the task of creating a life after empire's collapse. Yet it also is an orientation toward problem-solving that will unlock unimagined resources and potential. Let’s start practicing now.   
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*   For more on the impact of the shift away from the US dollar as the world’s currency, see  Federico Pieraccini’s “Challenging the Dollar: China and Russia’s Plan from Petroyuan to Gold.”

** For a brief overview of the October 1st mass murders, see Edward Curtin's "The Las Vegas Massacre: The Media Narrative is Deceptive."

Simple Living

by John K. Stoner (September 5, 2017)

Our age has been called the “anthropocene” because humans (anthropoi) are now the main influence on the life processes of planet earth.  And we are slowly awakening to the fact that this influence is grim and deadly—humans are rendering the earth uninhabitable for their own species at a galloping and possibly irreversible rate.

In this situation, the most urgent task facing humans is to adopt a lifestyle that can be sustained by the intricate biological/ecological processes of planet earth.  It is either do this, or it is game over for species anthropos.

In a previous blog I proposed that the small communities we must form to shape our lives will have to embrace three fundamental commitments and life skills: community, simple living, and nonviolence.  Here we look at simple living.  It sounds perhaps rather small—not a big deal.  Let’s have a look.  

Embrace Simple Living

The words “simple living” are used to describe a manner of life that consumes a level of earth’s resources which could be sustained into the indefinite future.  This is no doubt a strange and unwelcome thought in a consumerist culture and capitalist economy.   But by all serious accounts, current levels of consumption in the industrialized west are taxing the biosystem far beyond its capacity for recovery.  In this situation simple living must be welcomed and embraced, or we will indeed end up where we are headed, dead and gone.  So if the words “simple life” seem small, the concept and the project are not.  

The new outlook will affirm that the earth supplies enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.  This would be a revolution in thought for the USA.  Is it possible?   The answer to that may  not be certain, but there can be no doubt that it is necessary.  The grand myth, lie and deception of capitalism has been that we only need everyone’s greed in a self-balancing system to have a working economy.  This has produced the towering injustice of today’s filthy rich and despairing poor, with 1% of the population claiming right to a damnably disproportionate chunk of the earth’s resources.  For the vast majority of earth’s people, capitalism has turned  out to be a system of poverty production.

So now the great experiment with greed has run its course, and people are waking up to…what?   The possibilities of generosity?  Communal health may be an attractive alternative to individual wealth when it makes the difference between survival and destruction.  But again, who can see that?  Historically, this has been seen most clearly by people who live in a local community, in touch with their own interdependence and the living earth which gives them food and water.  Generosity, mutual aid, the kind of sharing that healthy families take for granted is the economy of small communities which offer hope for a sustainable future.  

End Warfare Capitalism

Warfare capitalism has run its course.  In its death throes, it thrashes about wildly—a sight unpleasant to behold and experience.  American consumers are finding it hard to get a grip these days.  The old working philosophy—“If some is good, too much is better” (Wendell Berry)—is no longer working.  We need historical perspective to understand what is happening and begin a serious search for something else.   

Norman Wirzba tells us what has happened:  

"What must not be forgotten is that capitalism has, from the beginning, been a military, imperial project that depended on brutal violence for its success.  As Sven Beckert has argued in his magisterial book EMPIRE OF COTTON: A GLOBAL HISTORY, even in its early mercantile phase capitalism would be most honestly described as ‘war capitalism.’  Entire continents and races of people were brutalized to secure commodities and profits.  The project of modern progress, in other words, depended on terrorizing lands and  peoples, extracting whatever wealth was available, and thereby keeping vast populations poor.”  THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY, Sept. 27, 2017, Norman Wirzba, p. 24. 


The poor of the world, and of our own country, are saying, “This game is over.  Your guns are not our masters.”  The American policy of endless war will have an end.  How much of that end is disaster, and how much is something better is basically a choice to be made by  millions of American people, acting alone and together.  Will we choose to replace greed with generosity?  A bloodless revolution…but a revolution to be sure!
Hear Jesus Define Kingdom of God
I’ve said that a simple lifestyle replaces the capitalist consumption obsession with generosity, and rejects warfare capitalism—both revolutionary moves.  What else?

Jesus gave form and content to a comprehensive alternative lifestyle when he announced the “kingdom of God.”  What he meant was  the kingship of God challenging and rejecting the kingship of imperial earthly kings:  Herod, Pilate, Caesar, et al—the whole lot of them.

There never has been a simplistic, easy or incontrovertibly inclusive definition of “the kingdom of God.”  But neither has there ever been a way, since it was announced by Jesus, for humanity to act as if this idea is irrelevant or capable of being ignored.  Tens of millions of Christians in the United States and across the world pay some kind of homage and allegiance to this kingdom of God every Sunday of the year—indeed, every day of the year.  

The power of this concept lies in its frontal political language and challenge to earthly kings, and in its assertion that there is a will of God that can be done on earth as it is in heaven.  

When people form communities around the project of discovering and enacting the will of God, they position themselves to add truths of the heart to those of science and the head for the education and governance of their lives.  All of this I have summarized with the phrase “simple living,” because that never has been, and probably never will be, used to describe the way of Empire.  

(see next blog )



Culture-changing Power

by Berry Friesen (October 2, 2017)

I’m working on a writing project—an introduction to YHWH—for my grandchildren.  If I can pull it off, it will be something they can absorb as young teenagers.  Mostly, my introduction consists of biblical quotes. 

Recently my work on this project has focused on the gospels and the stories of Jesus.  Aspects of those stories still puzzle me.  Jesus perceived himself to be YHWH’s anointed, the Messiah who would save the Jews (and thereby the rest of the world too).  He showed no interest at all in the Roman Empire or imperial forms of power.  So what was his approach for carrying out his rescue operation?

As we read the gospels, we notice several features of Jesus’ approach: the healings, teaching large crowds of people, sending out the disciples two-by-two. Most prominent is how it all ended:  Jesus’ willing acceptance of a gruesome, public death. *

Both Mark and Matthew hint that midstream in his ministry, Jesus’ approach shifted as a result of an meeting with an entourage of Pharisees and Sadducees from Jerusalem (see Mark 8:11-13 and Matthew 16:1-4).  The meeting ended abruptly with Jesus walking out.  Thereafter, Jesus began speaking to his disciples about rejection, the cross and death.  What was pivotal about that encounter?  Apparently, Jesus had been hoping for far more from the religious leaders than they gave him.

A 2002 speech by University of Virginia professor and author James Davison Hunter may throw some light on this. Hunter contends that enduring cultural change does not occur through mass movements or via grassroots campaigns to win converts one at a time. Instead, it is led by people with significant cultural capital (e.g., the elite) who are embedded in social and professional networks of the similarly endowed and who leverage their influence through important economic and political institutions. **

Thus, Hunter contends:

“Long-term cultural change always occurs from the top down. In other words, the work of world changing is the work of elites; gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management to the leading institutions in a society.”

“World-changing is most intense when the networks of elites and the institutions they lead overlap. Implied here is the overlapping of the different forms of capital – cultural capital overlapping with economic capital and/or political capital.”

What exactly is “cultural capital,” this prized commodity the elite possess? Hunter says:

“It starts as credibility, an authority one possesses which puts one in a position to be taken seriously. It ends as the power to define reality itself. It is the power to name things.”

Back to Jesus.  Assuming he held the same understanding of cultural change as Hunter, we can see why his meeting with the Pharisees and Sadducees was pivotal.  Jesus hoped they would join him in launching a transformation of the Palestinian Jews into the salt of the earth, the town set upon a hill, the lamp high on the lamp-stand (Matthew 5:13-16).  But they refused Jesus’ invitation.

Is there space for Hunter’s analysis in our understanding of cultural change? Does his emphasis on “the elite” undermine our emphasis on community empowerment?  Are the two emphases complementary?  These are some of my questions.

In exploring these questions and others, we need to clarify the kind of “power” we are talking about—what it is (or can be) and how it unfolds and proliferates.

Hunter speaks to this:

“To change the world is, at some point, to take power seriously. I recognize that power is an uncomfortable subject for people of faith and all people of good will who quite rightly celebrate service in the cause of the needy, the estranged, and the common good.

“But the power we need to take seriously is not power in a conventional sense. Politics will never be a solution to the challenges we face . . .

“Rather, it is the power to define reality in ways that sustain benevolence and justice . . .  In any case, articulating a reality that sustains benevolence and justice and exemplifying its meaning in time and space is the burden of leaders. In this respect, we do well to remember as a corrective and a caution that Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for the ruling elites of his day, not least Sadducees, Pharisees, and scribes — cultural elites whose power was not used well.”

“The power to define reality:” did you catch that?  Hunter says that’s the key to changing the culture.  Yes, this rings true; it is what the empire does every day of the year—telling us what to talk about (e.g., Trump, North Korea) and how to frame the discussion (“little rocket-man Kim Jong Un”).

Who are the “elite” in our time and place who embrace this role as change agents? Here are the people who come to mind for me (as well as the change each seeks).

--Colin Kaepernick, pro football star who first “took a knee” (end police brutality against minorities)
--David Gushee, evangelical ethicist and author (full gay/lesbian inclusion in the church)
--Steve Bannon, banker and media executive (a nationalist political party)
--Tulsi Gabbard, army veteran and congresswoman (an honest war on terror)
--Russell Moore, Southern Baptist leader (end conservative support for Trump)
--Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Peace (VIPS), former government “security” insiders (more honest and accountable government)

As is obvious from this list, not all efforts at cultural change point in the same general direction.  Nor are all successful.

Who would you add to this list?  And who might you identify as a change agent in the cause of forging a new American identity—one shorn of American exceptionalism and the imperial pursuit of domination?

Or maybe this theory of top-down change isn’t worth our time.  What do you think?
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*   For prior discussions of the culture-changing power of Jesus’ surrender to death on a Roman cross, see “Virtually Christian” and “What Jesus Changed.”

** In 2010, Oxford University Press published Hunter's book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.