Santa Barbara resident David N. Moore is a pastor, educator, and activist whose new book is titled, Making America Great Again: Fairy Tale? Horror Story? Dream Come True? The book, written in December 2016, is an impassioned call for solidarity and unity at a time of political and social uncertainty. Moore spoke recently with Brian Tanguay about his book.
What was the genesis of the title of your book? I get asked about this a lot. The line appears in the book itself, but my working title was “A Place Where God Isn’t An Asshole.” That title was my muse and drove the writing. But after having some conversation with the author Brian McLaren, who read the manuscript, I was influenced by his suggestion that Donald Trump had given me a gift, so I somewhat reluctantly changed the title.
Your book covers quite a bit of territory, religious and secular, from Black Lives Matter to protests at Standing Rock. Did you set out to cover this much ground, or did the work generate its own momentum? I started writing the book on December 2, 2016 and finished it on December 28, 2016. It was non-stop, almost stream-of-consciousness. I had a longer book in mind, but when I reached what would become the last page, I knew it was time to stop.
One of the more poignant passages in the book is an e-mail exchange you had with a young man from Canada who confessed to you his difficulty in understanding structural racism. Do you encounter that perspective often? It’s not often that people admit it so openly. That was a remarkable exchange and reminded me of having coffee with a white, professional man here in Santa Barbara after the grand jury failed to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson. I told him my story, including my experiences as an African-American man here in Santa Barbara. This was eye-opening for him and gave him a more personal perspective on the issue.
The GOP-controlled congress includes a number of senators and representatives who proclaim to be faithful Christians, yet their politics and policies often make the lives of children, women, the poor, the disabled and elderly, more precarious. Does this create cognitive dissonance for you? It did at one time, but I think I understand it better now. I view this group of people as manipulators of fear, specifically the fear that they are losing their position of racial domination. This is why there is so much talk of security, building walls, and so forth. It strikes me as harking back to a time of colonialism and imperialism. There’s an atmosphere of tyranny now.
You write about the need for a social movement that focuses on human rights, and addresses economic and social inequality. What role do you see the Christian church — in all its diversity — playing in building this movement, and do you see any signs of it happening? I’m personally experiencing a great deal of human solidarity right now that includes Christians, but that crosses lines of faith and includes people who don’t profess any faith. I sense a growing solidarity among people all over the world who realize that we face a very real threat to the species. It reminds me — and I write about it in the book — of the pressure the world community brought to bear on the apartheid regime in South Africa.
You write in the book that you could never be an atheist. Can you explain? The lens I see reality through isn’t based on religion alone. I don’t base my conclusions on any particular Biblical passage. I’ve travelled all over the world, from Brazil to Hong Kong, South Africa to Sudan, and when I look at human beings, I see the divine, the beauty of who we are, and for me it’s a reflection of something transcendent.
If we were taking a short elevator ride and I asked you to give me the central message of your book, what would you say? That people can wake up. I think people have been in a deep slumber. If you’re in your house in bed and the house is on fire, it’s important for someone to stir you. I hope my book can stir people to come together. For some it might be a gentle nudge, and for others a bucket of cold water.
This is a unnerving time in our nation’s history, and many people feel like we are in unchartered territory. What gives you hope? The experience of people who are awake. I get hope from people who are wide awake, across traditions, across faiths, who see clearly what is happening, both in this country and around the world, and understand that we need each other.