By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
An OWM is an old white male. Joe Biden and I have that in common, so excuse me if I feel his pain for being too tactile. We’re both the same age and have moved from mainstream to minority status in politics over the last 30 years. Actually, I have a bigger burden than Biden. I’m a southern OWM, and women in the Democratic Party have a special disdain for OWSMs.
In politics I was a Republican before it was fashionable to be a Republican in South Carolina. I ran for local office in the the 1970s to give voters a political choice in a state that was predominantly Democratic. In my last race as a Republican in 1986 I made a special effort to get black votes. You can guess how that turned out. Since then I have promoted a third party.
I’m also a maverick Methodist whose church now emphasizes exclusivist doctrines of salvation, and worshiping Christ rather than following the teachings of Jesus. It once produced pastors who took on unpopular causes like civil rights, but now it ignores civil rights and refuses to ordain homosexuals as pastors even though they are protected against such discrimination.
You may think that my political and religious preferences are masochistic, but I’ve always thought I was doing the right thing, even if it was unpopular. I don’t expect that I will ever be mainstream in politics or religion again. Politics have become so polarized by our two-party duopoly that most voters don’t even consider third party candidates; and the majority of white Christians have thrown Jesus under the bus by supporting Trump and his Republican minions.
It seems that the only alternative for political and religious minorities like me is to relate to other like-minded mavericks and consider ways to influence the mindless masses who have corrupted our politics and religion. I’m afraid, however, that there will not be any change in our politics or religion until we have a cataclysmic event, like a war or a collapse of the economy.
Either of those events is likely in the near future. If it’s a collapse on Wall Street, let’s hope that Congress doesn’t rush to restore the fortunes of those mega-corporations that created the mess--as they did a decade ago--and then fail to regulate their unrestrained greed. That’s why we can expect the next economic meltdown to be even more catastrophic than the last one.
If the cataclysmic event is a war, our involvement will be orchestrated by the president as commander in chief; and if it’s Trump, it will be more an extension of his ego than a threat to our national security. If China or Russia is involved, a war may well become an all-consuming and existential effort that ultimately unites Americans against the president who got us into the war.
Do I sound like a cynic? I should because I’m more cynical than ever about human nature, even in America. America is not so beautiful anymore--if it ever was. But I’m not cynical about the power of God to transform mindless masses of white Christians into people who take their faith seriously, and who can transform America into America the Beautiful.
It has happened before. Americans have had trying times when the spirit of altruism overcame their usual materialism and hedonism. In The Great Depression pervasive economic hardship brought people together to provide for the common good; and in World War II America sent its future leaders to fight the forces of evil outside of America, in Europe and the Pacific.
Today America lacks the altruism that once shaped our national values. It was taught by Jesus and is summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves, including those of other races and religions. It can help America overcome its false pride, selfishness and greed and convert America the Beautiful from an ideal into reality.
America the Beautiful, by Katharine Lee Bates (1904):
O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.
The United Methodist Hymnal, p 696
For more on America the Beautiful, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_the_Beautiful.
Dr Robin R. Meyers has described how church doctrine has made Christianity an exclusivist religion that emphasizes belief in a divine Christ and ignores the moral teachings of Jesus. The title of his book says it all: Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus, Harper One, 2009. You’re invited to hear Dr. Myers at USC on April 12 & 13; See https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ooLsZF0s8yWdck_Ye8DeVIvdoooX46dlCMmYDt8icxU/edit?usp=sharing.
(2/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America the Blessed and Beautiful--or is it?