“It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in princes.”
— Psalm 118:8-9
“[The disimagination machine creates mechanisms and education that] short-circuit the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue, or, put simply, to become critically engage citizens of the world.” — Henry Giroux in the essay, “The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America’s DisImagination Machine”*
I love to cook, and my love for cooking comes from being a child, standing in the kitchen alongside my mom, learning to make everything from omelettes to tacos to homemade pizza. But something happened when I went to college. I began to eat in the cafeteria, which was delightfully delicious, especially because I did not have to put in the time and effort to cook. I also began to eat an exorbitant amount of frozen pizzas. Even though I worked out more then than I ever had in my life, there was a time when I still put on about 10 pounds of fat. Add to that that I forgot how to cook. Why? Whenever you let somebody else feed you pre-packaged and processed nutrients, you have very little say in what the nutritional composition is. Your brain forgets how to cook and feed yourself. It just happens.
The same is true for many of us, and our way of thinking. In July 2016, Donald Trump, while campaigning for president, told a group of constituents, “I am your voice…I alone can fix it,” speaking of the myriad problems faced by the USA. In this moment, he was not asking for help, but that people put their faith in him. But lest my readers think I am making a pro-Democratic statement, let me say this. Years before that, in 2007, Barack Obama was campaigning for president and talked about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. But eventually, Obama’s administration went on to deport more immigrants than any other presidential administration in history. We did not see the immigration reform. The Trump Administration seems to be on pace to outdo them, and we are not seeing the reform. And yet, so much of what I hear is partisan bickering that point fingers across the Republican-Democrat divide, instead of looking at the embedded problem in the American system.
In a previous devotional this week, I mentioned the problem with talking about things from a 20,000 foot view, as if we had a magic wand. Right now I’m not going to suggest what we can do to fix this system through our arguments (although there definitely is a need for political urgency and action). In this devotional, I simply want all of us to lament the forces at work, which prevent us from even being able to criticize our systems, because we are so busy being angry at each other.
In the opening quote I mentioned the “disimagination machine.” This is another name for how the demonic forces of evil are at work, destroying us by capturing our thinking, by not letting us think for ourselves. The disimagination machine destroys the fresh expression of the Holy Spirit by using cliches and emotionally charged language that often gets thrown out on television. A disimagination machine lives in systems which affect each of us. It lives in a way that makes us feel injustice but never be able to accurately name it. It lives in a way that makes us more ready to fight than to imagine another way possible. The disimagination machine lives in a way that leaves us exhausted and unable to love one another for fear of the cycle of violence starting again.
I hope that you can, if only in the space where you and God are present, critically think about the ways in which your imagination has been cut off and neutered, so that you might better be able to see the people around you. I hope that your allegiance to the politically powerful, whoever they may be, would not get in the way of you entering the margins of society to be with the disempowered, who are often people in the immigrant communities.
Reflection: Please ask yourself this question, and journal your response, or talk it over with a friend, “If the political parties of our Country ceased to exist, and I was not able to watch the news or think about the political implications of immigration, how would I think of my immigrant neighbors? What is one way that I would act, so our paths would cross and we could become friends?”
Let us Pray: Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will; we have broken your law; we have rebelled against your love; we have not loved our neighbors; and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
*Quote taken from Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope, by Mai-Anh Le Tran