“Every man’s task is his life-preserver.” Emerson, The Conduct of Life, 1860
The emerging anger that seems so pervasive in our culture has been ignited by Trump. Obviously it was smoldering before he came on the scene but he’s managed to bring it to near rage mode. We should have discovered that buried ire long ago but for some reason the depth of it was not detected by sociologists, psychoanalysts or whoever. A lot of that wrath may be due to seven million white males realizing they are being left out of decent jobs that go to women, ethnics or robots.
I came across an article three years ago about anger among clergy by Tom Bandy, a prominent church growth guru. Evidently the growth factor isn’t working for him these days with the steep decline in churches. However, he has interviewed a few hundred pastors from different denominations. He has recently discovered that many clergy are flat-out angry. Bandy claims the healthier lay leaders have left our churches and denominations and that leaves it to leaders who have power plays.
It struck me that we have not had a white male bishop in the Western Jurisdiction for 25 years and I doubt there will be one in the future. I wonder how white male clergy think about not having a chance to pastor a large church, become a superintendent or a nominee for bishop. I would think maybe most wouldn’t give a rip but I think some would be devastated to not have that option. When I served as an interim superintendent in California a few years ago I was the only white guy on the cabinet.
It may not be a big loss to a lot of clergy but I recall thinking when I became a pastor that I had a choice when it came to serving diverse ministries. How much repressed anger is there among our clergy?
So, how much care will there be for secular jobless white men and clergy in the future? Who will step up to affirm them and how? Social centers, service clubs and faith communities may be needed to somehow reach out to those who are out of work and out of patience. What if some of the escalating anger among those who feel they have no future turn into shooters?
I met a 55-year-old gentleman recently who lost his business in the 2008 economic slump and is still out of work. He has some fear and a bit of anger realizing he will not likely be hired due to his age. I think many of the Trump supporters may be living with more fear than anger.
When I served as a chaplain on Skid Row I met young to middle-aged transients that had lost their jobs and were feeling useless. After months or a year or two they left their parents, spouses and children when they began to feel worthless around their loved ones and wound up gravitating toward the streets.
One of them who had left his family, managed to hitch-hike and ride the rails from the east coast to California at Christmas time to be near his daughter and her family’s home. He felt he was not worthy enough to be inside with them. After a week or so without contact he would head back to New Jersey.
What if bonding briefly one time matters to a few of those who feel inadequate and desperate in their lives? I can often recall, for example, where I was seated in a café or bar 50 years ago when I ran deep with a transient. I hope the guy who traveled back and forth during the Christmas season to be near his daughter and family for a few years continued to remember my tears and our tender moments together.
Maybe that’s all a jobless, hopeless and sad white guy will experience in his life at times, just a few pieces of deep empathy.