Phil Gulley is a Quaker pastor in Camby, Indiana–one of Indianapolis’ bedroom communities. He lives in Danville, another small community. Gullley is also a humorist; he writes for the Indianapolis Monthly and for the Danville Republic, among other publications. He has graciously given me permission to share the following essay, which focuses on America’s future prospects.
When I am tempted to say something critical about “churchy” folks (as I often am) I think about Phil and about several good friends who are members of the clergy. (Those of you reading this know who you are!) They are all truly good human beings “walking the walk” of their various faiths–and their presence in the community and in my life reminds me that painting any group of people with too broad a brush is bigotry.
Here’s Phil’s essay.
The study of American history requires a keen eye for irony. It began when Thomas Jefferson, an enslaver of some 600 souls, was charged with writing the first draft of The Declaration of Independence, which included these soaring words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” For something that was self-evident, equality wasn’t apparent to Jefferson, nor to the 48 other founding fathers who held enslaved people, hence the irony.
Women were not accorded the right to vote for the first 144 years of our nation’s history, and not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did Blacks gain that right, though even today, in some of our more benighted states, that right is under steady assault by those who laud freedom in one moment and deny it to others in the next. As I said, one must have a keen eye for irony.
A more recent head-scratcher occurred after our last presidential election when a mob of miscreants, moaning about the demise of American democracy, nearly dealt it a death blow by storming the Capital Building to halt the peaceful transfer of power. As of this writing, over a thousand rioters have been charged, with one glaring exception, the Rioter-in-Chief, Donald Trump, who so far remains free. So much for that old American chestnut that no man is above the law.
Even now, those who crow the loudest about American exceptionalism are the same ones bemoaning our nation’s supposed fragility, daring to call those who believe most strongly in America’s promise of equality “snowflakes.” (Again with the irony.) If the United States of America should ever end, it will not be at the hands of those who demand equality, but at the hands of those who demand rights and privileges for themselves, while cunningly denying them to others. Should those robbed of their freedoms dare to complain or march or organize, their silence is demanded, their compliance required. Let a woman insist on the right to make her own medical decisions, let people of color decry police brutality, and all of a sudden America is perilously close to collapse, the end times are near, the socialists are coming.
It should come as no surprise that our faint-hearted brethren have draped themselves in the garments of religion, cloaking their tyranny in divine authority. It is God they are fighting for, not themselves. Or so they claim. Robert Ingersoll, a Republican when Republicans were sane, famously said of our founders, “They knew that to put God in the constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought.” Fanatics and zealots are, and have been since our founding days, the gravest threat to America’s future. If we are imperiled, it is because of them.
But I am an optimist. I believe these lovers of piety and power, posing as lovers of freedom, will be seen for who they are. I believe wise Americans will reject their shrill demands, will recognize their crocodile tears as performative art and nothing more, and will dedicate themselves to a better America. As is nearly always the case, the younger among us will see what their elders refuse to see, that “freedom” which comes at the expense of another is not freedom at all, but oppression masquerading as liberty, and they will stand against it, and our nation will be saved.
To which I say, “amen.”
See you tomorrow.