This past week has been very challenging, perhaps extremely distracting and dismaying, for all of us. For us here locally at the Vineyard Church of Houston, we held our first “COVID-19 Response” joint staff and Pastoral Council meeting (via Zoom) last Thursday evening, March 12. Since then, we have and continue to learn and share with others about Zoom, Facebook Live, and the technical art of online streaming. We are discovering ways to stay connected amid social distancing. Going forward, we are preparing ourselves for the prospective (our friends in Washington and California are already there) “shelter in place” order for greater Houston potentially extending through May into the summer. We have also learned about our community, both the hoarders and the sharers, the fearful and the faithful. I am learning the struggles of figuring out how to work from home and manage the financial operations of our church. I am blessed to work for a lead pastor who expects me to work from home and care for a spouse going through daily radiation treatments (17 down, 13 to go!) with a troublesome sleep-killing cough (no fever, thank you, Jesus!). I am learning to love and pray for Glo’s healthcare providers and the truck drivers who supply and the workers at our local grocery store and pharmacies. Most of all, I am learning the Chinese word for “chaos,” which includes both the characters describing “danger” and “opportunity,” most aptly, and perhaps prophetically, describes our current global scenario. I recognize the danger for ourselves and others, but I also am sensitive to the tremendous opportunity God is giving his church to connect, love, and serve in surprising ways. Now, onto our assignment for this week, Fukuyama’s Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. Typically, I skim the foreword, the table of contents, and the conclusion of an assigned source. Like much of what our esteemed lead mentor assigns us, I found this source a thoughtful read to unpack concepts I have only recently come across when reviewing my learned cohort mates’ posts. Therefore, while this source does not sit within the focus of my research, I surprisingly enjoyed reading and may read the entire book.
Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama (born October 27, 1952) is an American political scientist, political economist, and writer. Fukuyama has been a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies since July 2010 and a Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. In 2019 he was named director of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy at Stanford. Before that, he served as a professor and director of the International Development program at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he was Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.
In reviewing Fukuyama’s new book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, Alim contends the book focuses on the current threat to the continued development of a robust liberal democracy. Alim sees Fukuyama’s latest work centering on the fundamental paradox within our society’s need for self-worth, that is, we both crave to be seen as equal to others while seeing ourselves as superior to others. On both Left and Right ends of the political spectrum, politics has begun to hinge upon identity issues. Alim contends Fukuyama portrays the Left as fallen into arguments over historically under-represented group rights. Contrastly, the Right has used nationalism to harness longheld smoldering anger at being deprived of both equal access and advocacy. This shift towards identity politics threatens to fragment our society by continuing to divide and polarize citizens into ever more specialized zealous tribal units. Fukuyama concludes his book with recommendations to create broad, inclusive identities to bring people together. Alim contends Fukuyama’s proposals to introduce national service and enforce state sovereignty reveal his bias as an American neoconservative. Alim also contends that Fukuyama understates and underdevelops the role of the Internet and technology within the current identity crisis.
My sense is the reviewer left disappointed in Fukuyama’s recommended proposals and their associated underdevelopment. Fukuyama is quite thoughtful in his weave of global history, politics, and societal development. While I agree we will never get away from identity politics, I am most interested in how we can steer political discourse back to “broader forms of mutual respect for dignity that will make democracy more functional.” He contends we start by addressing systemic issues such as police violence against minorities and sexual assault and harassment within all of our institutions. Again, needful and necessary, but how do we effectively move forward? He then goes onto suggest we need to integrate tribal units into more national identities based on trust and citizenship. Fukuyama contends the United States, more than any other country, has benefited from the diversity of immigration. Therefore, the real focus should be on assimilating immigrants to our creedal identity. He leans into the “assimilation agenda,” beginning with public education, but in basic civics. I am thinking, perhaps I missed his point, or maybe he is philosophically locked into a neoconservative bias. Fukuyama’s concluding statement, “Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has also been used to integrate. That, in the end, will be the remedy for the populist politics of the present.”. I am disappointed he did not apply his considerable skills and scholarship to the development of his proposals as I expected him to provide further amplification to the thoughtful advancement of his propositions going forward. Perhaps, Fukuyama does not see that as his purview, regardless I am left wanting more creative ideas and innovative actions as to how to move forward.
 Arjun Neil Alim, Book Review | Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama, November 11, 2018, The London School of Economics and Political Science, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lseih/2018/11/14/book-review-identity-the-demand-for-dignity-and-the-politics-of-resentment-by-francis-fukuyama/
 Francis Fukuyama, Identity: The Demand For Dignity And The Politics Of Resentment (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018) 166.
 Fukuyama, Identity,171.
 Fukuyama, Identity,172.
 Fukuyama, Identity,183.