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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

Age of Grievance Post 3


It’s hard to believe that 2024 is half over!

We start the second half of the year with the celebration of Independence Day. It’s, hopefully, a day when we come together as Americans to celebrate… and to recognize that whether we agree with one another, or not, we are all in this place together.

The book that I have been reviewing, The Age of Grievance, is ultimately about the problem for all of us when we allow our differences to dictate the ways we interact with one another. It continues to be a hard read (not for the writing quality but rather the content). This week I made my way through two more chapters.

Chapter 4 is titled, “The Lost Shimmer of the City on the Hill.” Here’s a quote:

By 2012, I notice that our ‘shining city on a hill,” to use one of Reagan’s favorite terms for the United States, was enveloped in a fog that wouldn’t lift.

Do you see this unrelenting fog also? The author presents lots of statistics that show how the majority of us no longer believe our country is headed in the right direction.

One of our stories, as Americans, is that we are always progressing.

Many no longer believe this, which I personally don’t think it is a bad thing. As a person of faith, I look at the discontent of today alongside the invitation from Jesus for us to be about loving our neighbors.

How might God be inviting our congregation to come alongside those who are unhappy about our present and see little hope for the future? Does our faith give us something to say?

Chapter 5 is titled, “I Love Me, I Hate You, and We Are So Many Rungs Apart.” Here are some key quotes:

There have always been big gaps between how the rich, how the middle class, and how the less fortunate live. Inequality is nothing new. But its present iteration is distinctive, and it’s distinctive in a manner the encourages grievance…

“Starting in the 1970s, although the overall economy continued to grow, the share of that growth going to average workers began to shrink, and real wages leveled off” …[that] is a recipe for civic trouble according to “a database of hundreds of societies across 10,000 years.”

…And we’re put out because of expectations. That word – that dynamic – is key. People’s degrees of happiness and unhappiness typically have less to do with their current circumstances per se than with their circumstances measured against what they’d reasonably aspire to, what they’d been encouraged to hope for, what they’d deemed possible.

As I read this chapter, I wondered about who benefits when we are at each other’s throats? What might our communities look like if we found ways to work together for more just income distribution? Reading (not for the first time) that this inequality leads to social upheaval is scary, but it need not be immobilizing.

The other day, in a completely different context I heard this quote:

It’s time to tell yourself the truth

Even when the truth isn’t hopeful, the telling of it is.

Maybe that is the purpose of reading such a difficult book. It’s not until we see the truth that we can do anything about it. May the grace of our Lord Jesus keep us and give us peace.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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