Naomi Klein needs Jesus.
Duh – we all do. But in her latest book, No Is Not Enough, we see a Jesus-shaped hole toward the end when her hope lands in people, I’d suggest unsustainably.
Throughout the book, Klein does an excellent job of laying out the extent of our current crisis. An interlocking set of climate change restrictions, radical capitalist manipulations and reality TV politics are pushing us from one crisis to another. We are on a carousel seized by a madman who is spinning it faster and faster and getting off seems impossible.
Although Klein uses many of her old analytic categories, they shed some real light on our current political and cultural moment. President Trump really is a manifestation of the 90s triumph of licensing which she describes in No Logo and Secretary DeVos’ approach to education really is an extension of what happened in a post-Katrina New Orleans, a la Shock Doctrine. If her arguments seem old-school lefty (which they do, to me) perhaps that means we haven’t paid her enough attention.
So, with all of this gloom, how does Klein see a way out? Through the power of the people. The way will be hard, she tells us, but we just need to get tough. People are hungry for real change and when a shock comes, it is also a chance for ordinary people to seize the day and comprehensively fix all our problems. She points to a document she helped draft, the Leap Manifesto, as one attempt to tackle problems comprehensively and at the root. This one document isn’t sufficient but it sets a model for action in other places to address our interlocking crises.
Now, I believe in people power. After all, I work at a place that seeks to empower faith leaders. But that isn’t – that can’t be – where my hope ultimately lies. People screw up all the time. Even large numbers of people. Even the proletariat. Ultimately, my hope for society, as for myself personally, is in Jesus and his work of reconciliation.
That sounds nice and pious but it is difficult to see concrete application. But here is one simple way: we cannot place pressure on ourselves or our politics to fix everything. They cannot do that and we cannot do that. If we try, we will burn ourselves out or become terrible people to everyone around us. Huge pressure to fix everything does that. In my brief time in advocacy I’ve seen examples of both. But the good news is that God can fix it. Jesus died to fix it and he was raised to prove it.
I’m sorry, I don’t intend to get carried away. No Is Not Enough is valuable for what it is: a stirring indictment and analysis of our current political and social moment. Klein’s prescription is even valuable in itself – the progressive movement must take hold of intersectional, knotty problems and pose big answers to big problems.
Ultimately, though, we just all need Jesus.