What I have seen and where I stand: my Democratic manifesto

My response to today’s Letters from an American installment:

I am thankful for Liz Cheney and wish her well.

But I cannot join her and other Republicans who reject Trump’s big lie. I cannot join them because I have come to believe that Trumpist corruption, deception, and sedition is (we cannot use the past tense “was”—it is still very active) not an aberration but a revelation, an unveiling. It was logically entailed and cunningly concealed within the Republican small-government, low-taxes, pseudo-theocratic hypocritical-morality-policing regime for the last sixty years. Many others did not see it either. Many still do not see it.

But I can no longer not see it. I cannot and will not unsee the years 2016 through 2020, and I cannot un-understand what I have come to understand about the tree that bore the rancid fruit of those years. This is why I can show you my ACLU membership card and my receipts for dues payments to the Democratic National Committee and the Michigan Democratic Party. For six decades I never wanted to support or join these organizations. For most of those decades I recoiled internally at the mention of their names. Such was my early political formation. There are some good arguments for standing aloof from them. They are imperfect, to say the least. But in our current moment (and in truth, this is by no means a new thing in 2021), they are doing the closest thing to the Lord’s work that can be achieved in our inevitably compromised and compromising human, 21st-century American situation.

So I cannot stand aloof, either by sailing serenely above the struggle going on all around us or by waiting for or adhering to some nonexistent or impotent political party that aligns ideally with the entirety of my theology.

In our moment, we either shill for the liars or stand up for truth. Liz Cheney and millions of never-Trump Republicans, recent ex-Republicans, and recently estranged Republican sympathizers are standing up for truth. Some of them are my biggest heroes and favorite political writers. But from my point of view, their resistance is a doomed resistance, and even if it were not doomed, it is a still-deluded resistance and therefore a superficial, partial resistance. They are rejecting the stinking pustule on the surface but have not yet recognized the deep roots of the rot. I do not condemn their stance, as Trumpism must be condemned if language, truth, and morality are to have any residual meeting. I honor them. But I don’t think they have arrived at a sustainable position.

To me, the Republican never-Trumpers are friends, while the unrepentant Trumpists are lost souls. I admire the never-Trump Republicans to the extent that they are rejecting the big lie of our moment in US history and standing up for truth. But for those who have seen the subterranean extent of the lie, supporting the real resistance—the Democratic Party—is a moral and spiritual imperative. The Democratic Party is the real resistance because it is not only or primarily the resistance. It is a coalition of people who have a positive, constructive, agenda: the full and fruitful implementation of democracy as a means to the flourishing of all people. This is what I have come to believe.

If you disagree, I no longer take it as my mission to change your mind. I have given up on that. How can I blame you for not seeing, or hope to make you see, what I was unable to see without three graduate degrees, thousands of hours of reading, intense professional training in listening to others and questioning myself, and a long and winding road of Christian discipleship to several deeply cruciformed pastors, teachers, mentors, and friends? Not everyone requires all that. And for some all that is insufficient. For me, all that would have been insufficient if I had not also been baked in the oven of a marriage and then a family whose members, if I could muster the convinced egotism to say it, I would swear were designed by their creator for the express purpose of saving my soul.

So if in the past I have addressed any of you, or spoken or thought about any of you, as though you are unaccountably stupid because you have not seen what I have seen (ha! “if”—I certainly have), I repent and apologize. I have come to realize that no one sees any truth they are not enabled or compelled by grace to see, and also that I am not exactly grace personified, though I wish I were. So I cannot compel you to see anything, and may not even be able to help you see anything. There is still a lot that I do not yet see myself.

But I cannot unsee, and do not want to forget or fail to act on, what I have seen. So my mission in the public-political part of my life, which is not my whole life but must be a connected, integrated part of my whole life, is to support the extension of God’s shalom and tsedakah (peace, wholeness, righteousness, and justice) wherever I can discern an opportunity to do so. I hope and pray that you and I will both find and follow the way of Jesus Christ not only inside our head and our heart, and not only inside our home and our church, but also in the public spheres of our workplace, neighborhood, city, county, state, nation, and world, walking alongside anyone else who pursues compatible ends, and wisely discerning, beneath their disguises, those who do not.

“I am a companion of all who fear Thee,” and a fellow-traveler of those who do not say that they fear Thee but act as though they do, to the extent that they so act, and an opponent of all who say they fear Thee but act as though they do not, to the extent that they so act.

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