As violent demonstrations roil Hong Kong, a bold group of volunteers is providing moral support and physical protection for young protesters
A few months ago I began posting online conversations with a friend who identifies herself as a Christian progressive. The conversations skidded to a temporary halt on Nov. 8, when she fell silent on Facebook. Guessing the reason, I sent a conciliatory email the day after, the gist being: Elections are always temporary. One side gets its chance to perform, then the other side. She thanked me for the condolences and shared the reason for her downcast soul: The election of Donald Trump had exposed an ugly seam in the American landscape and would let loose—had already let loose—an outpouring of hatred, bigotry, and random violence against “outsiders.”
I had been reading versions of this refrain all over the internet, expressed something like this: Now we know how stupid, intolerant, and racist America still is. Granted the stupid, intolerant, and racist element in every population, and its likelihood of showing up now and then, statements like that make no sense, especially coming from those who call themselves progressives. Don’t they believe in progress?
To the left, it’s as if every step forward, every Supreme Court decision, law, or regulation that goes its way, is a critical victory for human advancement. But just barely achieved: stretched like a thick rubber band over each new milestone. Any step back—that is, any relaxing of this regulation or restriction on that unrestricted right, not to mention any election of the wrong guy—snaps the rubber band and hurls America back into the dark days of segregation and back-alley abortions. And those knuckle-draggers now in power would probably love to take away women’s right to vote, too.
Progressivism slams into a wall called ‘perfect justice’—something which, by definition, can’t be achieved.
Do you, or any of your conservative friends, long to restore Jim Crow? Do you, or any of your conservative friends, want to herd homosexuals into concentration camps?
Thought not. Although there remains a right-wing fringe who would love to start a neo-Confederate revolution, Americans have come a long way since 1860, and 1920, and even 1970. Bigotry remains, but no more do our fellow citizens have to head to the back of the bus or risk a beating if they show up to vote. I would call that progress.
But many progressives won’t, or they would qualify all gains with an all-caps qualifier: BUT we have a long way to go to achieve our vision of a just society. Progressivism slams into a wall called “perfect justice”—something which, by definition, can’t be achieved. When the perfect makes an enemy of the good, it can only make more enemies.
Minor example: Grand Valley State University in Michigan is hosting a “teach-in” this semester about fashion trends and their “oppressive effects on marginalized populations, such as students, employees, women, and transgender identities” (who’s left?). If a marginalized student doesn’t yet know she is being oppressed by lower-rise jeans and cut-out shoulders, this helpful presentation will set her straight and prove how far, so far, American society has yet to go.
Major example: A disturbing number of colleges, including Ithaca, the University of Oregon, UMass, and UW-Madison, are hosting workshops and seminars to send a message to white males: You don’t measure up. These benighted cavemen must acknowledge how privileged (and violent) they are by nature. The description of Duke University’s “Men’s Project” reads: “Duke is an environment where some are rarely made uncomfortable while others are made to bear the weight of their identities on a daily basis—we aim to flip that paradigm.” Meaning, let the guys be oppressed for a while and see how they like it.
I remarked to my friend that I seem to think more highly of our fellow Americans than she does, even though I’m the one who acknowledges total depravity while she holds to innate goodness. The disconnect may reside not in our definition of goodness, but in our definition of progress. To me, it’s God’s common grace at work. Human nature will always have a long way to go, but it’s healthy to give thanks for how far we’ve come, no matter which side wins.