The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults – Alexis de Tocqueville
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Martin Luther King
Donald Trump was just inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Despite most trusted predictions, the real estate mogul was sworn into the highest office in the land after a presidential campaign historic for its divisiveness. Now, it remains to be seen how his leadership will affect the nation over the next four years.
The 2016 presidential election raised many questions about the nature and status of the Church in the United States. There were enormous divisions amongst Christians across lines of age, race, ethnicity, gender. Rhetoric between fellow believers was at times more vitriolic than even the rhetoric between the leading presidential candidates, in both the primaries and the general election. Orthodoxy and heresy have been invoked on numerous occasions, boycotts and staff changes have been initiated, and all the while the global church has looked on as many of their own suffer and die at the hands of oppressive regimes.
For us at Integras, the election was not an event from which we could remove ourselves. Our entire identity as a journal has been staked on reviving Christian discourse with integrity and civility.
Walking away from the polls on November 9, seeing the chaos that has ensued since that day, and now looking on as more than 320 million people live in either hope for or fear of the next four years, we have been forced to take time away to think and pray about who we are, and what we really stand for. Now, we are ready to share what has been on our hearts and minds during this time and our plans for moving forward.
First, we have been keenly reminded that our identity as followers of Jesus Christ is not found in our political system. Many of us disagreed in our party preference or desired that a better option would arise, but in the midst of the ensuing rhetorical chaos we realised how easy it can be to place more stock in our identity as Americans with a sound political system than in our identity as Christians who first and foremost recognize Jesus as Lord.
This does not mean, however, that we in any way retract our strong convictions that truth, justice, and mercy must walk hand in hand in this country. We continue to stand by our firm beliefs that policies to promote life, justice, peace, and forgiveness must continue to thrive in order that each and every citizen of this country can live and thrive freely before God and neighbor (Micah 6:8).
Second, we have been challenged to take our mission even further. As stated on our website, “The goal of Integras is to provide an avenue for Christian millennials to engage in conversations about faith, politics and relevant social issues.” Our generation is distraught with social inequalities, violence, poverty, and despair. Young Christians are unhappy with the politicization of their faith and the polarization of political parties in our country. Our peers want to voice theological opinions without being bound by either conservative or progressive extremes. They want to comment on the good and bad in society, but be respected for their individual opinions.
Up until now, meeting this demand has been the primary mission of Integras. From today, however, we will not simply be acting as a forum for different ideas on faith, politics, and society, but will ourselves be sharing our own vision of Christian engagement in public life. This will not always be a unanimous effort in the form of editorials, but our team hopes that the nuanced opinions we have developed through study and writing in the past will encourage our readers in their faith and deepen their impact on society. In addition, Integras will soon be adding multimedia components in order to share our vision with even more young Christians.
Third, we continue to believe that America can be great, provided that such greatness also be tempered. No matter how many promises of peace, prosperity, and security are hurled at the masses, losing grasp of our moral obligation to pursue a just and equitable society will ultimately harden our collective conscience and undermine our aims.
Scott Fitzgerald powerfully shows the dangers of pursuing greatness for its own sake in his classic novel The Great Gatsby. In the text, Gatsby represents the epitome of the American dream and the fulfillment of social mobility and prosperity, but at the cost of a central moral foundation. He is brazen and romantic, a self-made millionaire living in the Trump Tower-esque corner of New York called West Egg, but his obsession over another man’s wife ultimately leads to his demise.
In an era of decaying social and moral values, America is shown to be both extravagant and cynical, materialistic and mercenary. Gatsby’s desire for greatness before all else is his hubris, his prideful downfall, leading to the tragic ending reminiscent of any play by Sophocles.
Perhaps Anne Frank put it best when she said, “Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings.” Social greatness may mean power, but social goodness means humility and service, character and honor. It means treating others with human dignity and recognizing the importance of establishing a society around tenets of justice, wisdom, courage, and moderation.
So may we make America good again. May we stand with the oppressed and listen to their stories, may we continue to speak out and use our platforms to keep the powerful accountable. We invite you to join the community at Integras and share your thoughts as we seek to be informed instead of just opinionated.