A new era of American politics officially begins on Friday, and today we start a new series exploring what that era would look like if political healing were to occur.
Healing is a continual process of finding wholeness. As a follower of Jesus, I believe it is also our final destination: when he appears, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is.
To begin Issue 015, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about healing in my personal pursuit of it over the past four years leading up to, and during, the creation of Liberatus. My goal today isn’t to present my thoughts as either the greatest source of expertise or the final word on healing; rather, my hope is to point us towards the thinkers that have influenced me in my own journey, and to present insights that are largely theirs, so that each of us can pursue healing at a deeper level. To that end, I’ve included a recommended book list at the bottom of this journal entry if you’d like to explore these ideas further.
If healing is going to occur in American politics, we have to choose it individually every day. Here’s a picture of what I believe that looks like.
1. Acknowledge wounds that are real.
In today’s victim culture, we’re largely living this point well! However, relational dysfunction has to be acknowledged for healing to occur. It might be a long, messy process, but it is critical.
2. See the evil within; don’t scapegoat.
In acknowledging wounds, it’s easy to project all of the problems on the “other.” But if you think about it, that’s exactly what’s destroying our politics, because all of the world’s problems are because of:
The Religious Right
The LGBTQ Community
The Supreme Court
The Administrative State
The Tea Party
The Military Industrial Complex
The Oil Industry
The Non-Oil Energy Industry
The Climate Change Activists
The Climate Change Deniers
The Obama Administration
The Trump Administration
The Clinton Dynasty
The Bush Dynasty
Except in reality, the problems in America aren’t really because of any of these groups. We have to recognize how we’ve each contributed to the dysfunction—only then will we each be able to begin the work of healing. When we realize how we’ve each contributed to the dysfunction, we can let go of short-sighted categories that exclude one group from cooperating with another.
3. Find your center in God, where all things are held together.
Creating time for stillness is vital, especially in political culture, in order to find any kind of center in God. I firmly believe political communication would be radically transformed if those who claim to follow Jesus began to find a deep center in the love of God before speaking about policy positions. If I were to revisit my former roles writing letters and giving speeches for nonprofits, campaigns, and Congress, I would not want to communicate the same way I did then.
4. Let your pain become the universal story of pain.
Our unique experiences are largely the pain of the world, the ache of living in a fallen world. When we realize this, we can find a larger story for our pain—an abusive relationship, an unfair boss, a dysfunctional workplace is now about more than just us and our careers. Instead, it’s our way of participating in human suffering, and our way of learning to act with compassion instead of judgment.
5. Offer what you can creatively out of your unique experience and talents.
Accept responsibility for the insight you have. Or, for followers of Jesus, accept responsibility for what God is calling you towards. (And there’s a good way to know if it really is the call of God: is it leading you towards love, joy, peace, etc?).
Deep insight on what would make the world a better place isn’t a vision that should be held inside and never shared with the world. Eventually, at the right time, I think it has to be shared.
6. Once you know you are secure in God, you can’t really be a victim any more.
This is our great hope! I’m not going to argue that mentally and emotionally living as a human secure in God is easy. But I do believe it is our calling. Being a child of God really is a call to be “strengthened and established,” to take action to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. That’s probably impossible if we are merely wounded—following the perfect wounded healer is an entirely different story.
While we wait for God’s Kingdom, we take action. When we take action, we do so from stillness. In stillness, we bring more of God’s Kingdom to this earth.
7. Let deep insight lead you to prayerful intercession instead of trying to prove points, or to vindication.
I don’t think there’s a human alive, myself included, whose default setting is prayerful intercession when we see brokenness in the world.
But each of the above ideas can only be lived when we learn that prayer is planned failure—that we don’t have to have the answers because there’s someone else who does, and that we don’t have to have all of the mental and emotional strength to pursue healing, because there’s a source of strength we can only tap into when we’re empty. Sometimes we have to fall asleep at night praying “restore my soul” over and over. These aren’t steps to implement as much as they are the way of working from stillness.
As we work to bring healing organizationally and personally, we have to do so holding the agenda loosely, knowing it’s not our agenda at all. As we take steps to fix what’s broken in politics, we can’t blame others for the dysfunction—rather, we can continually tell the story of healing. From a place of emptiness, we can long for the return of Jesus, when all relationships and the physical world will be restored. We can talk about the good news that we can be strengthened each day to make it better.
There is much that needs to change, and that’s why we created Liberatus. My hope is that funds will allow us to continue the work of building relationships from a gospel standpoint to move each of these ideas forward. The end of this work, though, is one we can celebrate every day: Liberatus—we are set free.
The Wounded Healer (Henri Nouwen)
The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey from Anguish to Freedom (Henri Nouwen)
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Richard Rohr)
A Loving Life (In A World of Broken Relationships) (Paul Miller)
Wild at Heart (John Eldredge)
Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers (John Eldredge)
Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (Eric Metaxas)
Next Generation Leader (Andy Stanley)
The Cost of Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
Create a note on your phone and begin logging what you learn as you work through healing in life and work. (I have a list on my phone that’s now several years in the making, with over fifty bullet points).
You can do the same when you read a book, and if you want to take these ideas further, I suggest picking one or all of the books above. To reference what you learn in each, create a note on your phone for each book, listing page numbers with the corresponding idea or quote you want to remember or put into practice.
Liberatus is a weekly journal about bringing Truth and Beauty to American politics, written by people on the inside. You can join the adventure by applying to write, subscribing to the journal, or by contributing monthly.