I alone can fix it: the delusion of the white messiah

I alone can fix it: the delusion of the white messiah July 28, 2016

There are two ways in which it’s completely wrong to say “I alone can fix it.” First of all, God alone is the one who fixes everything. That’s the basic realization I have to reach in order to become a Christian. The story of Adam and Eve represents the moment when each of us “I alone can fix it.” The Eastern Orthodox teach that the delusion of individual autonomy is the root of all sin and the foundation for hell. As long as I think I’m the god of my own universe, I will suffer and cause all sorts of suffering in order to maintain that delusion. The only way to do good for others and gain joy rather than bitterness and entitlement is to recognize that I am a vessel of God’s mercy. God uses me to fix things and share his love with people, but God is the primary agent of my goodness. When I recognize all of my achievements as expressions of the grace of God, they become reasons to be grateful instead of reasons to expect a reward. That’s when serving others becomes a genuine joy.

Even if you don’t believe in God, you ought to recognize the ridiculousness of saying “I alone can fix it.” Because none of us are self-made people. Whenever I do anything, it’s always something that my community is doing through me. My accomplishments are the product of my mentorship and training on the part of my parents, my teachers, my scoutmaster, my youth pastor, and every other mentor along the way. Furthermore, if I ever try to fix things by myself, I’m doing it wrong. Fixing problems should be an effort in which the entire community participates directly as a team. Peter Block makes this point in his critically important book Community: The Structure of Belonging. He says our biggest problem as Americans is that we want our leaders to do everything; we’ve forgotten how to be empowered citizens. Nothing will get fixed unless everyone participates and contributes according to their abilities, because the fixing is the empowerment.

My greatest hope for this election season is that we will each see the Trump in all of us rather than demonizing him in order to justify ourselves. Trump is a clownish caricature of qualities that I know I have. I just know better than to express my messianic narcissism so shamelessly. Will this be the year that white people finally learn to stop being the world’s heroes after Trump shows us so painfully what we’ve become? I sure do hope so. And I imagine the rest of the world does too.

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