The whole world changed. Well, most of it. There are small tribes in secret places that continue to live almost exactly the way they have for several hundreds of years. But the rest of the world changed in giant ways. For better or worse, we have our ancestors to thank.
Once upon a time in the United States of America, even though defined by post-Depression rugged individualism, our people depended on each other. We depended on our neighbors, not for backyard barbecues or help in taking down a dead tree, although those things were pleasant. We depended on them to go to work and to spend money at our neighborhood bars and farmers’ markets, to pay their taxes so we could have sewers and roads, and to go to church and raise obedient kids. We depended on them to light up their roofs and porches at Christmastime and hide Easter eggs on their lawns in the spring. We counted on them to vote quietly, to keep their family secrets, and present themselves as healthy and normal even if they were struggling with depression or anxiety or addiction. We counted on them to look like us and talk like us and love like us and worship like us so we would know who we were.
We knew no other way. We didn’t think we had ever known another way to be.
Then something happened, and we started to know that we needed to change. The systems we were used to weren’t working for everyone. In fact, the underprivileged were no longer confined to inner cities and rural Appalachian counties; it wasn’t just our neighbors who fell on hard times; it was our families and increasingly, our very selves. It turns out that the systems we were used to actually only worked for a very few folks that none of us even knew.
We saw the poverty, the violence, the powerlessness, the disease, the environmental damage, the addictions, the religious and political divisions, the injustice, the classism, the racism, the disparity, the isolation and loneliness, the collapses— the many, many collapses of communities— after local businesses, churches, and schools shuttered. We saw them. And what we didn’t see, we imagined. That’s when fear gripped us.
And that’s when the Great Global Reformation saved us.
Gradually but intentionally we recognized the “us” in humanity and changed the systems that failed us. We identified the sources of our problems, government and religion among them, got rid of what we could, and reformed the rest.
Like the Roman empire, the American republic fell. Our constitutional republic and market capitalism failed -both failures had been predicted, by the way- and Nationalism could not save us. The two-party political system stopped working decades before we admitted it. American-brand Christianity drove a wedge between people that would never be repaired. State propaganda, initially intended to calm nerves and maintain faith in the old systems, turned against the very citizens it once promised to serve. The climate crisis moved from debates to reality, all while we still debated its reality. Revelations about corrupt politicians and politics were no longer shocking. Everything that we did not want to lose and everything that we did not want to admit damned us to mere existence rather than supported us in abundant life.
We ate our own tail.
So we started over with what we had left, and we rebuilt, restored, reformed.
However, in the process of creating something new, we inadvertently silenced all the prophets so there was no one among us to sound the alarm that reformation without transformation is ineffective and unsustainable. If they had, I doubt that we’d have listened anyway. We never do because when we listen without hearing, we end up arguing over who is right rather than working to get it right.
So. We continue to eat our own tail. That is our cycle. Our past and our future. Reformation without transformation.