A Land Without Prophets
President Lincoln believed Americans would be the only
Americans such as Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Herschel, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, James Baldwin, Dorothy Day, and even Ayn Rand. These individuals disturbed every American's notion of the quotidian and demanded the nation respond to an inevitable reckoning.
Today, there are no prophets – only blogs and TikTok. Many Americans get their news from Facebook and have decided the media outlet that agrees with them is the one to stay abreast of the news regarding the world. There are many good journalists; they sadly compete with spin doctors who see the news as propaganda and marketing, not as a matter of trust between their reporting and the Americana people. In this milieu, the voice of reason, faith, integrity, and wisdom are drowned.
The need for prophets in this unprecedented time cannot be overstated. Prophets have, throughout human history, served as the voice of some authority and power beyond human comprehension. The authority behind the prophet's words called people to repentance, restoration, and transformation. Yet, amid the candid and sometimes scathing messages proclaimed, there was also a message of hope and renewal – a vision shared of a better future for all people where the sacrifices brought forth an abundance of life, liberty, and prosperity all would express thanksgiving and praise.
These are not the messages spoken today. The voices are not authorities but have financial backing and strong interests. By causing division, inciting fear, and seeking to gag and silence our better angels, we now witness a congressperson's spouse racially attacked, and no one from that party denounces this. We now witness conspiracy theories offer messages of doom and falsehood and encourage the use of the body politic to exercise violence as a formidable expression of political disagreement. What happened?
The present hostilities in American politics have been afforded a voice by a President willing to side with the devil himself to get what he wanted. He is a master con artist. Trump knows the weaknesses of those he negotiates with and blackmails them. This is why voices do not carry and why he is human Teflon.
Trump knew how to extract the fear and hatred suppressed by poor whites across the country for so long. He also knew how to use loaded words with Hispanic voters, such as "communist" and "leftists," and distorted patriotism as McCarthy did in the late 1930s and 1940s. Suspicion, betrayal, blackmail, loss of livelihood, violence and the abuse and manipulation of government resources, such as the Justice Department, the FBI, and even the Supreme Court, have been part of the Trump playbook.
Everyone knows it is either for Trump or against Trump. So now Truth is suspended from serving a party's cause, and in turn, Americans who identify with a party will either reject or embrace the voices in the public square if they, too, are siding with Trump or against him. Therefore, prophets - who act independently and speak Truth to power- are immediately silenced and made to be part of "fake news" or patriots.
Prophets only serve Truth. When Truth is suppressed, and in an ironic twist of fate, most advocate a type of nihilism where throwing anything against a wall to see if it sticks is the way "truth" is reported and shared with the American people; prophets have no place in this present American society.
For instance, Teachers are not respected. They are underpaid and overworked. The educator is not granted a voice. Teaching to a test is their function, while politicians take an interest in teaching a type of history that promotes a version of their "Truth." Would Americans embrace a teacher as a prophet?
Ordained ministers are also highly ignored, as many evangelicals have sold their pulpits out to politicians, and so many on the left have done the same. Roman Catholics have also had a similar history. With the increase in Anti-Semitism, it's hard to see a Rabbi embraced as a prophet. An Imam has an even less chance if we are candid. The pulpit is no longer viewed as speaking for God alone. Ridiculous doctrines and scandals have done much to strip the preacher of the place of prestige and prominence they once enjoyed.
There are no public intellectuals who chose to step out of the ivory towers to speak to the people as Socrates envisioned philosophers would. Yet, at no time in our history are we in greater need of prophets than now. If we let our better angels cry out again - we may hear them speak again from the heart of this - our promised land.