Reality-Based Community

While reading through Talkingpointsmemo today, I came upon the following quote from the New York Times Magazine by Ron Suskind:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

This article, which focuses on the role of faith in President Bush’s decision making process, raises an interesing question for me. Although the Prez claims United Methodist roots, I tend to view him (as Jim Wallis does in the article) much more aligned with American, evangelical Calvinism, and thus, out of step with some of what we have been talking about in Emergent circles. Certainly, the notion of empire building connects with the modern mega church movement in which church leaders build their individual empires for God (not a bad thing, but a reality). The question is where those of us in the Emergent realm fall. Is deconstruction in fact placing ourselves in the “reality-based community,” which means that we study and talk about the church, but never in fact function as “history’s actors.” Or, are we standing against empire building, believing that God’s kingdoms are not empires? Last but not least, do we function to create a new reality, or are we involved in naming current reality and thus formulating a response to that reality?

I don’t have the answers, but it’s worth discussing.


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