American culture at-large has confused facts with truth, truth with opinion, and opinion with intolerance and bigotry. When facts become bigoted opinions, the truth is squeezed from the center of cultural thought. Much of what people say think and believe has been poisoned by division, short-sighted arrogance and despair. This Hobbesian vision of the world is subconsciously propagated in our modern era by “fake news”, half truths, venomous 140 character diatribes and all out lies. These none redemptive ways only serve to reinforce what is wrong in America. We are becoming a nation of concepts and not a nation of Americans. We have morphed into “We the Tweets” not “We The People”.
American thought hasn’t always been as toxic as it is today. Recall the days of America’s founding when ordinary people dared dissent the suffocating rule of an autocratic elite. These revolutionaries were men and women of great character and courage. Many were both haunted by personal failures and plagued by seemingly impossible divisions between fellow revolutionaries. Two hundred and fifty years ago, in the face of deep disagreement, the American experiment took shape. They believed, in spite of what their eyes saw, that glistening in the not so distant future was a better world than the one they inherited.
Clarity demanded this world would only come into existence when a united confederation of sovereign states was wrought from a furnace fueled by discord and oppression. United by this immovable cultural foundation, they fought with pen and musket, in the open fields of Gettysburg to the stuffy halls of independence. And from decades of struggle, an extraordinary new nation was formed. We now live in that nation and I invite you to share the same hope for the United States.
I propose establishing redemptive trilateral cultures built on honor, wisdom, and hope. These cultures can grow up in every sphere of cultural influence. These kinds of cultures will go a long way at restoring the hearts and minds of those poisoned by the division, short-sighted arrogance and despair rampant in America today. Redemptive cultures do not have agreement or teaching people what to think as their highest aim. Rather, they build a framework on which honest, vulnerable communication can be established.
A redemptive trilateral culture is marked by three sides of thought joined together by genuine affection for humanity.
Redemption is often times associated with theology and religious belief but it is by no means a solely spiritual practice. It is the learned skill and practiced art of forgiveness. When we establish a redemptive culture we are declaring that mistakes do not define us. We all make them. But a culture that exercises the muscle of forgiveness grows incredibly strong. Redemption does not mean over looking or forgetting a mistake. Wisdom requires we not lose touch with the sometimes painful realities of the past and the plight of those who suffered at the error.
Those who truly learn the path of forgiveness are not looking for “gotcha” statements or slip ups to “win” an argument or discredit an opponent. Forgiveness says, “I see what you did, but I refuse the temptation to define you by this.” Only in a redemptive culture can we discover both identity and accountability. Identity is a personal and internal affection which grows for your own uniqueness in the world. It is an embracing of both divine purpose and personal joy which accompanies living life to the full.
Accountability is the transformative experience of being seen for who you are not what you’ve done. It’s astounding what can happen when, at the moment of failure or exposure, a darkened corner of our souls is seen and not condemned. This painfully empowering illumination can parse between the often times costly and painful mistake and the identity of the one who made it. In other words, accountability shows how to accept responsibility for an error without accusation of deeper moral failure. What this can produce is people who genuinely learn from mistakes and are no longer destined to repeat them.
Honor is the first side to be established in redemptive cultures and is the antidote to the division. Cultivating an ability to understand a different culture, position or religion than yours while maintaining personal conviction is paramount to genuine problem-solving. It is a hard fought battle to remain in community with those who seem so different. But becoming honor-able requires a humility to let go of your own ingrained need to be right and others wrong. This does not require letting go of personal morality or convictions, but it does often times require a reordering of priorities.
Wisdom is the second side to be established and acts as a torch illuminating the darkened and short-sighted paths of the arrogant. What we do not glean from we are destined to repeat. While the past does not dictate our future, it does inform the present with wisdom to chart a forward course to wholeness. The history of America is a case-study in both triumph and failure, mediated by an undeniable optimism that we have the solutions to the ills plaguing society. Whitewashing the sometimes painful past of America does nothing but remove real opportunity to discover solutions. Problems with no owners have no solutions. If we erase problems of the past or deflect responsibility on straw men for the sake of argumentation, we have deeply confused the issue and buried any hope at redemption.
Hope is the final side which provides fuel for action. We believe a better future lay in the hands every-day Americans, not just policy makers. Redemption is not a pipe-dream but call to arms. The field of engagement is the mind and our arsenal is stocked piled with humility and love. Hope brings these powerful weapons to bear in our own homes, online personas, public forums, and halls of power. The wise and honor-able carry hope that no divisive, disparaging message can overcome.
The biggest hurdle to establishing redemptive cultures is cultivating a genuine affection for humanity. This task is wildly subjective and often times requires healing from past wounds – both emotional and spiritual. But any system of thought built without a foundational belief that all people are created equal and that mercy triumphs over judgment will quickly morph into divisive, toxic ideology.
If we can muster the courage to cultivate redemptive cultures we are quickly on our way to solving the real problems. For we are not destined for destruction but redemption.