“To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15)
Every liberation is followed by a new oppression, or so it would seem in the light of history and human relationships. From Egypt to Babylon to Persia to Greece to Rome we follow a thread of growth, oppression, liberation, rebellion and a new oppression. Once, the sun never set on the British Empire, now it never sets on the capitalistic empire of American and Chinese corporations. Leaving a bad relationship is often followed with a rebound relationship of equally bad dynamics. Whether in world affairs or personal affairs, we are prone to fall into new traps after freeing ourselves from power struggles.
Seasons of struggle fall between the space of our fears and our messianic hopes. In our struggles, many of us lose the capacity of careful discernment, and we throw our trust toward the nearest potential solution. Consequently, we are quick to demonize that which challenges us, and find salvation in that which appears to offer answers to our problems.
Even the models we use to interpret the people and the world around us are prone to accepting new saviors that turn into old monsters. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”, but we are fooled again, and again. The current political season is a perfect example of this struggle. I would suggest that this cognitive dissonance is occurring on both sides of the political spectrum, and that it has always been that way.
This dilemma occurs, because we demonize those we disagree with. It occurs, because once we have been hurt by someone or by some-system, we see them under a new harshly glaring interrogation lamp. Our questions become leading questions. We lose the nuance of seeing people and systems within the complexities and subtleties of real life. In our eyes, our kindly parents have become prejudiced and unbending; our children have become lost in shallow passions and unethical beliefs.
The new models for seeing the world are found in postcolonial theory and liberation theologies. The poor, the oppressed, the confused, and those whose voices have been relegated to back alleys and bedrooms have become the new political and social prophets. When we are challenged, we are often quick to take on the voice of the oppressed, and assume our prophetic role against those we perceive as our oppressors. And so it is, that “microaggression” has become the new catchphrase for denoting when we feel attacked, whether it was intended against us or not. The term microagression has grown significantly beyond its initial meaning found in racial tensions as developed by Chester M. Pierce in 1970. The space between disagreeing parties has grown wider and wider in the short span of my life, and the disparities are making enemies of old friends.
I am a fan of certain aspects of liberation theology and postcolonial theory, but every set of ideas has its limits. Those limits are always found in the human heart – the places where we think about ourselves as more important than others.
Could it be that our trauma, our tragedies and our disappointments are the new framework through which we see our world? If this is the way we interpret others, we will always see them as an enemy to be conquered, or a fool to be converted. Poor white rural America leans to the right and is characterized as dumb. The cities lean left and are seen as the home of moral degradation. Rich/poor, black/white, old/young, straight/LGBTQ, parents/children and a host of other lines of disparity present us all with the opportunity to begin to interpret our world more generously, or to maintain a hard line approach against those who disagree with us while seeing ourselves as micro-prophets raging against those we might have learned to love.