Complex Solutions in a Microwave Culture (or, Inaugurations and Marches)

If you didn’t keep up with the news this past weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt like you woke up out of a coma to some kinda of fever dream made of political nightmares. (Well, I would say one nightmare for each side of the aisle, but that’s coming from someone who’s somewhere in the middle and maybe up, or down, not sure which direction you start using for adamant moderate.) Anyway, there was an inauguration that gave a sizable chunk of the population a sense of relief, and another a sense of horror. And there was a march that gave a momentary reprieve from horror, and transferred it to the first group. So, really, no one walked out of the weekend happy. So much for that pursuit of happiness thing. (Cue sad trombone.)

Anyway, our culture has a problem. It has a disease. It has a sickness so deep in its core that there is no easy cure… It’s the desire for quick, easy fixes. (Whatever you were probably thinking I was going to say after the ellipses is probably going to be addressed here, just not the way you were thinking.) We live in a (cliche incoming) “microwave generation.” We want a duct tape or WD-40 solution to everything, regardless of the complexity of the problem. And while the Mythbusters have pretty much shown that duct tape can fix or build just about anything, it doesn’t make it the appropriate solution for every problem.

Food is just a symptom of the problem. Consider the sheer amount of microwaveable meals and foods available at your grocery store. Now, think about the number of times you have cooked a homemade (or semi-homemade, no judgment) meal. How do these compare with your growing up years? Honestly, my generation (millennials, I say with a sigh) is beginning to take notice and change things. We’re living in a time of the “slow food” movement, which seeks to further causes like sustainable farming, local produce and meat, and good cooking techniques. It values flavor, sustainability, and the local community. This is interesting when compared to a certain period in American history where everything seemed to be moving toward automation, fast-food, and instant meals. I don’t agree with everything in the slow food movement, but it’s something I can get behind because I see the value in it, as well as how it’s attempting to tackle complex issues in complex ways and taking its time developing those solutions.

Compare that with recent protests and reactions against the government. (And, as a white man, I will be approaching this issue carefully.) Consider the women’s march. (If you want to read a well-pondered opinion piece that is probably more thorough than mine, and from which I will be using some ideas, check out this article by David Brooks.) Brooks points out that the Women’s March, and “progressivism” (whatever that means now) missed an opportunity to define what it means to be a patriot, and to tackle a complex problem by presenting a comprehensive, long-term solution.

The idea I’m getting at is that a silver bullet solution isn’t available in the complex world we inhabit. (And why are all problems werewolves?) Consider abortion rights, which, arguably, was a major point of protest, which left many pro-life persons feeling shunned or unwelcome during the lead-up to the march. And, there were real issues to be dealt with: energy, equal pay, equal job opportunities, basic rights for all, and immigration reform, to name a few. And, truly, we could spend days just discussing what one of those issues means at its most basic level and how it would actually work in America and globally. These aren’t easy, simple problems.

So let’s take the pro-life stance. (Bias awareness: pro-life is my point of view, but please listen, as you may be surprised by the conclusion.) Pro-life seems like an easy viewpoint: protect the rights of unborn children. Pass a law, make it illegal, and done. Except that it hasn’t ever been, and never will be that easy. Consider that the early church was known for walking through the streets and gathering up abandoned and exposed newborns and nursing them back to health with their own resources. Consider that this was a fairly radical idea when it started, as the Greek ideal was to dispose of those considered weak, frail, or unwanted. Moving this forward, what does it look like the church’s (and the general population’s) role needs to be in lessening abortion? Sounds like the church, along with other individuals, has a lot of work to do, huh? Is the church willing to pay for hospital visits and delivery fees and to compassionately care for mothers carrying their children to term? Is the church willing to educate young people and really talk about sex in an open, frank way? Are individuals willing to give up their prejudice against single moms and love and provide for these children as God does? And that’s just the beginning of the pro-life argument.

See, being pro-life means more than just arguing for beginning of life rights. It also means defending the rights of the aged, the disabled, the poor, the refugee, the immigrant. Each of these individuals has a right to life as well. Is the pro-life movement willing to pull them under its wing as well? Oh, and what about being a vocal opponent of torture, war, and other violence? Can we really say, “Save the life of this child,” while calling for the deaths of enemies? And one step further… can one claim a pro-life stance if in favor of the death penalty?

When it comes to these issues, the complexity comes to rest at home. Will a law truly change the situation, or is it just treating a symptom? Will compassion, generosity, and education do more? The solutions rest in our own hands and depend on whether or not we begin to take action. Our time, talents, and resources show your priorities. Our words and actions illustrate the content of our hearts.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you have done for me.” Liberty bears this inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Isn’t the American (and Christian) ideal to take the long, hard road toward a collectively decided goal? Despite its mistakes in the past, when America is unified toward a worthwhile goal, very little can stand in its way. And when the church is unified toward a godly goal, nothing can stand in its way.

Let’s look ahead toward more complex, long-term solutions than easy, short-term fixes. Pray for America. Pray for your leaders. Pray that you will see opportunities and take them.

Photo Credit: Statue of Liberty, NY.jpg via wikimedia commons

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