In Spirit Blog

Right TurnIn follow up to my recent post To my Friends on the Left, it is time for a letter to my friends on the right of the political spectrum.  I won’t repeat my disclaimers or definitions of left and right, so please take the time to familiarize yourself with the previous post to help you make sense of this one.  Also, it may help to read both posts together to get an overall picture of what I am saying and avoid the trap of being distracted by my personal political leanings.  With that said, let’s get up to speed quickly in this post.

The common time period associated with a “generation” is 40 years.  Not sure if that comes from the biblical understanding or not but nevertheless it seems to have taken hold in modern culture as well.  Using that approach as a baseline, it would appear that we are reaching the end of a generational trend as we approach the year 2020.  Going back 40 years from that point we arrive at 1980, which I previously suggested as the approximate time of the rise of the right wing in western culture.  The 1980’s gave us the personal computer, the 1990’s the internet and the 2000’s the explosion of social media through Facebook, Twitter and other similar tools.  This doesn’t even address the impact of technology on medicine, agriculture and the oil industry.  Fortunes have been made by many in these industries and the stock markets associated with it and those who made those fortunes have either participated in the political process or have greatly influenced it.  With that background in mind, time to launch in:

Dear Friends on the Right,

We are entering a critical phase of our generation.  I use the words “we” and “our” intentionally, since I have typically identified with the right in my beliefs and actions but find myself embarrassed by what our generation has become.  What began with so much promise and innovation has descended into an abyss of selfishness and abuse of power, marginalizing many and inciting anger in the generation that follows us.  We sit on the precipice of significant change.  Our actions in the coming months and years will determine if the change will be repentance and reformation or intransigence and revolution.  My hope is that we choose the former.

It would be tempting to view the recent success of left-wing parties such as the NDP in Alberta, Canada or SYRIZA in Greece, the rise of movements such as Occupy or the resurgence of the environmental movement associated with climate change as anomalies in our world and a challenge to be brushed off by the current ruling class (typically right leaning and capitalistic).  That would be a tragic mistake.  These developments and others should be a signal that something is seriously wrong.

When CEO’s make 206 times more than the average worker in Canada and 354 times more in the US, that is wrong.

When the average student graduates from university with $28,400 of debt, that is wrong.

When the majority of senior executives responsible for the financial scandals in 2008 are not going to jail, that is wrong.

When the average annual salary of a mega-church pastor in 2010 was $147,000, that is wrong.

I could go on but hopefully the point is clear [generalization alert], the right wing generation, the golden age of capitalism and trickle-down economics have failed us.  They have failed the most vulnerable in our western culture and those folks are not happy about it.  What is even worse news for those in power is that the next generation is internet savvy, very angry and politically active.  The shift to the left that we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg.  However, there may still be time to change.  To paraphrase a well known statement:

“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove you from your place of prominence.”

Compassion and care for all members of society, not just the rich and apparently successful, is still possible.  If done voluntarily, those who have prospered and succeeded in the recent past can still help others while retained some autonomy over their own personal wealth.  If imposed by government or some other more revolutionary means, personal autonomy will be but a distant dream.  However, time is short.  It may already be too late.

Interestingly, you may have observed that those on the left are increasingly wrapping themselves in the teachings of Jesus as the champion of the poor, marginalized and outcasts of society.  Rather than countering this position with your own gospel of prosperity and empire, stop and reflect about what they are saying.  They are right.  In fact, not only are they right about Jesus championing this cause, you may also want to consider that it was Sodom and Gomorrah’s treatment of the poor that angered God, not their sexual depravation.  Think on that for a minute.  While you do, remember that this same Jesus told regular stories about land owners, sowing and reaping, investing talents and a rich father who gave to his son.  There is room for capitalists in His kingdom.  Just not for the ones who mistreat and abuse their employees, servants and customers for that matter.

Sadly, as I observe the run-up to the upcoming national elections in Canada and the US soon after, I am not optimistic that the “right” will learn their lesson.  It would appear that a time in the wilderness may be necessary to purge the selfishness and rot from our generation.  May the left have mercy as they have their time in ascendency.  Perhaps they will provided that they don’t look to the right for an example.

John Matthews

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  • James


    Thank you for this letter. I believe it is imperative to hold multiple perspectives, although seemingly difficult to find harmony with, it must be done between left and right ideals, in a time of such dramatic change and potential.

    I find my recent move from Colorado to LA,is a change in landscape and a change in political environment. Backing neither one more than the other, but learning from both, I find the things I could easily understand in Colorado were the overall balance in ideals, rather low key political atmosphere, though not without voice and perspective, a respect for land came through most conversations around life and politics here, personal wealth/work & investments were valued, and perhaps seen more in a seasonal matter, rather than get quick rich, not a huge presence of entitlement. People seemed to support local small and local corporate businesses.

    California, is a leader in our culture, and many of the states ideals, I find the value for the marginalized and the hunger for change ever present in conversations. I find that the left values, the stripping of authority that has abused for a generation, it’s power is an offense to most people out here. Though I would caution throwing the baby out with the bath water case by case would probably reveal some great men and women in power that are doing real good. I also find that the theme of respect for human dignity is a highly valuable perspective in left ideology.

    I believe the weak points that concern me, around principled living, though they would argue whose making those principles we live. I’m not sure I have an answer to that, but I believe our generation must find standards and ethics to live by. I don’t believe popular vote will give the best results to all our dilemmas coming in the next couple decades.

    These posts are helpful and readable, so thanks. Look forward to more conversation, and more change.


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