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Painful reflections for a liberal

If we’re right, how come we’re losing so much?

Since the election of 2016, I have been dealing with one level of depression or another. I was shocked and devastated by Trump’s victory. I had urged my friends and relatives to vote for Clinton, whether they liked her or not, for the sake of the Supreme Court. I never imagined that not only would we lose the White House, but the Senate too. And Mitch McConnell would get to steal that Supreme Court seat from us.

Then came the retirement of Justice Kennedy, and my depression only deepened. Most liberals know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, having spent most of my adult life working for and supporting liberal candidates and causes, I am very familiar with this feeling. Over the course of my career, I have definitely lost more than I have won. While I never imagined a few years ago that marriage equality would be the law of the land right now, neither did I imagine that Roe v. Wade would be in such danger.

For my entire life, my liberalism has been based upon a deep spirituality that has only grown as I have gotten older. During high school and college, I went through a period of rejecting the religion into which I was raised, but I returned to it with a more sophisticated, nuanced view of the Almighty.

I believe that spiritual teachers from Jesus to Mohammed to Buddha to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bill W. all have important lessons for us. In particular, Jesus, who is so frequently misquoted or quoted out of context by political conservatives, has much to tell us.

For example, it was Jesus who said that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” He also said that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” It was he who kicked the money-changers out of the Temple. It was he who gave the sermon on the mount, perhaps the most profound statement of liberalism, in my view, that has ever been made by anyone. Included in that speech was the line “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Well, right now, I’m not feeling very filled.

I believe Jesus and these other spiritual leaders would have supported efforts to accept everyone, whatever their race, gender, sexual-orientation, religion, class, etc… I believe these teachers would have supported efforts to take care of refugees and immigrants, to help the poor, and to spread the wealth of our society more equitably. I believe the person who said “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” would be opposed to guns being put in the hands of children. It seems like Jesus and these other spiritual leaders believe what I believe.

But as much as I believe Jesus’s teachings support my beliefs, so too do the conservatives who seek to spread guns widely, deny various groups equal rights, and concentrate wealth and power among the wealthy and powerful. How can we know who’s right?

The recent loss of that Supreme Court seat sure makes me feel like maybe I have misjudged things. After all, I was thrilled at the prospect of President Obama appointing a successor to Justice Scalia. Finally, after years of conservative control, the Court might take a more moderate, maybe even liberal, approach.

Instead, the Court has taken an even deeper turn toward the right. In today’s , wrote that Justice Clarence Thomas was shaping the future of our jurisprudence. If that is true, then the Court will succeed in taking away the rights that I believe Jesus and the other spiritual leaders argued belong to all.

How can that be? If the Almighty supports freedom and justice for all, as I believe it does, then how can it allow a truly evil man like Trump to lead this country and reshape our judiciary? In fact, it almost seems as if the Almighty stepped in and saved the conservative movement at the very moment it seemed like liberalism might reach its ascendency. It almost seems as if God is against liberals.

That’s exactly what the conservatives say. So if I’m coming to the same conclusion on my own, one of several things must be true.

First, it could be that this is simply a bump in the road, that God wants us to continue to fight toward justice, much as President Lincoln described in his second inaugural when he tried to explain how God could have allowed the Civil War to last so long when he said “the Almighty has His own purposes.” After all, if ever there were a righteous cause, the abolition of slavery was it. But yet America had to fight to achieve that end. Perhaps we have not yet done enough to earn the justice that liberals yearn for.

It could be that I’m wrong, and that this apparent victory for the conservatives is only the last gasp of a dying movement. Perhaps now America will see the conservative movement for what it is: corrupt, mendacious, hypocritical.

I hope one of these two explanations is the correct one. After all, I’m always amazed at how things work out, oftentimes better than I would have expected. Time and again, as I’m going through difficult times praying to the Lord for guidance and support, it rescues me from my fears in the most unexpected and exciting way. To me, lack of faith would mean willfully ignoring what is going on in your life.

There is one other explanation, however. Perhaps we are wrong. Perhaps the conservatives are right, and that God is blessing them with victories to help achieve their just ends. I certainly hope that is not true, but it is hard to ignore that fear in times such as these. I hope we will look back on this era as a period of shame and heartbreak only to be followed by a renaissance of liberalism. But I don’t know if that is true right now. Only time will tell.

What do you think? I would appreciate any thoughts and comments you have because I truly don’t know the answer to this question.

Written by

Mike is an Assistant Professor of Management for Legal and Ethical Studies at Oakland U. Mike combines his scholarship with practical experience in politics.

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