Can we start a new conversation? 

In the latter half of 2022, it’s time to have a serious talk amongst ourselves about the path forward for America.

click to enlarge Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers

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Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers

For more than a decade I wrote a regular column for Oklahoma Gazette. It was a progressive second opinion for those who needed something other than the suffocating orthodoxy of a straight, white, Baptist, Republican Jesus. Based on the letters to the editor that always followed those columns, I was often accused of Oklahoma-bashing. If I didn’t appreciate the so-called Oklahoma Standard, some readers opined, then why didn’t I just move to California and sip wine with Nancy Pelosi? But looking back now, I realize that all those commentaries were really meant to post a warning about the dark clouds that were already forming on the body politic of both the state where I was born and the country that I love. Those clouds are no longer on the horizon.

For the first time in American history, a twice-impeached one-term president who lost the popular vote in two elections was able to nominate three far-right anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court. They delivered on what they promised to resist (also known as lying) by overturning Roe v. Wade. For half a century, women had been given the power of a choice that nobody else should ever make, but now all the Jesus-loving states can criminalize abortion and return women to the status of second-class incubators without moral autonomy. Now a 10-year-old girl can be raped and forced to bear that child. If it doesn’t kill her physically, it will simply destroy her as a human being. What in God’s name have we done.

On Jan. 6, 2021, an armed mob summoned by the aforementioned president attacked our Capitol and tried to overturn the results of a free and fair election. Carrying crosses and guillotines for the Prince of Peace, they were duped into fighting for a pathological narcissist and compulsive liar. Republicans, 147 of whom voted to overturn the election results, refused to even participate in hearings about the worst attack on American democracy in American history. Now we know how close we came to losing our country.

In each case where the separation of church and state might be preserved, the court moved to compromise it, advancing the dream of Christian nationalists for an American theocracy. In what we have always assumed was the enduring genius of the founders for giving us both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, the center cannot hold. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholic, even though only one in five Americans are. Why is it that those of us who believe in plurality are now forced to live in a country ruled by those who do not? Put simply, when it comes to the unyielding moral dilemmas of our time, why do we eliminate choice instead of preserving it? If you do not believe in abortion, then don’t have one. Likewise, if you oppose same-sex marriage, then just refrain from marrying someone of your own sex. Just say no.

When it comes to the climate crisis, the greatest threat facing the human species, the court limited the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions and gave it to Congress (who had given it to the EPA to begin with since that’s where the actual scientists work). Now the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene will help guide us into a sustainable future, so no worries. In fact, and this must be said, we are now at an inflection point for women, for democracy, for religious freedom and for the future of the planet itself. The belief that rights once granted cannot be taken away, or that there is something inevitable about human progress, is a myth. We could lose access to birth control, the rights of all people to marry, the genius of religious pluralism, and any hope that our children will not suffer the ravages of climate disaster.

For progressives, this would be a good time to confess that we are losing, and that no amount of sophisticated condemnation will change anything. This crisis is bigger than hashtags or the narcissism of do-gooders who take selfies at fundraisers so they can post a curated version of their awesomeness. We’ve got to stop sipping white wine and reminding each other how smart we are and how dumb those “other people” are. Democrats must admit that we sold out to Wall Street, that we abandoned the working class and that when “deplorables” don’t vote for us, it might be our fault. The pandemic exposed a deeply broken, deeply divided, post-truth nation that can’t even communicate its shared values because there is no shared understanding of the truth to begin with.

The world will not be saved by people who watch Tik-Tok videos all day and don’t vote. It will not be saved by preachers who value popularity more than the risks required to tell the hard truth about our greed and apathy. It will not be saved by men who value masculinity over virtue, or by women who think feminism and lying are compatible. It will not be saved by celebrities who masquerade as heroes or by athletes who are all body and no soul. But most of all, it will not be saved by people who refuse to think, to value evidence, to question authority, to expose the hypocrisy of religion or just to get over themselves.

Let’s restart the conversation about how to create the kind of world we all want to live in, but keep it positive and practical, local and lively. Perhaps you truly believe that more guns will make us safer, that wealth trickles down and that the marketplace can solve all the problems of life. Or perhaps you think we have all been lied to, and somebody needs to tell us that the emperor has no clothes.

Either way, bring it on. But hurry, because we are running out of time.

The Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers is pastor of First Congregational Church UCC in Norman and retired senior minister of Mayflower Congregational UCC in Oklahoma City. He is currently Professor of Public Speaking, and Distinguished Professor of Social Justice Emeritus in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University, and the author of eight books on religion and American culture, the most recent of which is, Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age.
Visit robinmeyers.com

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