This week as I giddily watched a small army of superheroes on-screen, laying aside their petty squabbling, past disagreements, and warring egos in order to defeat a delusional madman with contempt for half the planet, because they understood the moment and the stakes—I thought about the moment before us.
American Democracy is in the endgame now.
Our leaders are woefully failing us, our checks and balances are nonfunctioning, and our systems of protection have been compromised. We need to stop warring with one another because that has always been the supervillain’s game: get the good guys to turn on each other, divide and conquer, focus them on the wrong fight.
Progressives have a cancel culture, purity problem and if we don’t get over it—it’s going to destroy us.
As nearly two dozen Democrats have now stepped forward to declare their candidacy for the 2020 Presidential election, our collective fatal flaws have once again surfaced: we don’t understand how to play the long game, we don’t see the bigger picture coming together, and we’re willing to be momentary martyrs of our own virtue—even at the cost of losing everything.
Twitter is littered daily with knee-jerk Liberal objections to candidates; questionable past behavior, one-time verbal gaffes, or previous political positions that we’ve decided are certain deal-breakers. We immediately disqualify potential nominees in the name of our values or religious beliefs, allowing no gray space of compromise, no personal evolution for people, and no possibility of future alignment with them.
Worse, we easily find ourselves violently fighting with one another over matters that are in fact trivial, when compared with all that hangs in the balance. As I watch gangs of deeply entrenched advocates of progressive candidates warring with one another over semantics and minutia, I realize we’re not paying attention to our recent history at all. The heroes always lose their way in the second act, don’t they?
Meanwhile, the other side is simply circling the wagons, making concessions, consolidating power, and gaining traction—spirituality and virtue be damned. This is why we’re where we are today.
For all their sermonizing and finger-wagging, Conservatives have never allowed their personal morality to get in the way of a political win. We saw this played out in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Prior to Donald Trump announcing his candidacy, any self-respecting Evangelical would have declared a three-time married serial adulterer with multiple bankruptcies and a history of racist statements and predatory business practices—the complete antithesis of Jesus. What a difference a few months made.
As Trump’s political stock rose, their religious convictions began to miraculously evaporate in the light of political opportunity. Celebrity evangelists who previously claimed to abhor everything he represented, suddenly and gladly leased out their megachurch pulpits, social media platforms, and Christian University commencement stages. It turns out when the devil actually does bring you to the mountaintop and shows you what you get in exchange for your soul—your solid rock theology is a lot more like jello.
Politicians like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, who at first made vehement, impassioned assaults on Trump’s character, intellect, and suitability to lead—have found themselves falling over one another to bow at his feet and kiss his ring—willingly discarding their previous disgust and gladly auctioning off their souls for a space in the bed of a powerful man who they are willing to sleep with for the shiny trinkets of power, position, and opportunity he gives them.
Professed Christians who’ve spent their entire lives loudly brandishing their family values, devotion to God, and steadfast commitment to the ways of Jesus—have proven themselves able to shove all that in a closet, hold their noses, play dumb. And, like their Biblical ancestors who joyfully knelt before a golden calf, these believers now bow down to an orange jackass.
That has been the story for the past three years of this American story: millions of people on the Right trading in their personal and religious values for the coming of a kleptocratic kingdom they benefit from. They have sacrificed their individual convictions on the altar of the win—or what seems like victory in the moment.
I’m not asking progressives and liberals and Left-leaning believers to do that. I’m not suggesting we collectively sell our souls the way our counterparts have.
We are different from our political and religious adversaries, precisely because we are more committed to our personal convictions than to purchasing influence.
We do stand for something greater than empty pulpit pounding and phony public histrionics about Christianity under attack or returning to our days or former supremacist glory.
We are driven by moral and spiritual prompts that refuse to align with monsters or horde a consuming power that will corrupt us.
We aren’t fueled by a contempt that would snap its finger and wipe out everyone else.
But if we can’t lay down our all-or-nothing, my candidate or no candidate, Bernie-or-bust purity that will not set aside its strident virtue, in order to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against a formidable threat—we’re going to find ourselves with no voice whatsoever.
There will be no third act redemption.
There will be no going back and fixing it later.
There will be no alternate timeline for our children.
Religious Progressives and political Liberals need to understand how urgent these moments are. We need to stop killing our allies with friendly fire and we need to discard the inconsequential battles of preference so that we can win the singularly vital war.
We need to win because when we win, life and the planet and the future does too.
We’re in the endgame now.
Originally Published on JohnPavlovitz.com