The New York Times is complicit in hijacking the term Populism and making it refer to the worst of human values. A straight garden-variety definition of populism, what you get when you type the word into Google, is not Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen. It is a concern for Ordinary people.

When I wrote the influential book, The Grass Roots Church, in the 1960s I was accused by a liberal denominational executive of being a spokesperson for the John Birch Society. I think the current posture of the media, mirrored and perhaps led by the Times, illuminates this profound distortion.

The victim, as always, is the ordinary person. The casualty is a universal perspective.


We should honor and accept every person on the planet. We should have an ethic that gives equal rights to all. Is this a position that is resonant with the right wing which is based on various forms of exclusion? Of course not. Populism is a word whose meaning has been entirely ripped from its universal roots and made to describe the right wing.

Getting real

Reality is everything and to get real is to become a universal person.

It is to see reality as a whole and ourselves within it as individuals, not as part a mass. It is to recognize that all of us are a spectrum because we have the freedom to choose among values that have consequences. We are the makers of history. We are all part of the same thing. To get real is to accept continuity, fallibility, and universality.

Populism is used by media to divide and by the leaders of "populist" parties to claim they are "for the people". What populism, in this distortion, means is binary, divisive politics. It is dog whistle politics. It has nothing to do with concern for the ordinary person. All people are ordinary. What varies among people is the power and place they possess.

Become a universal person

To become universal persons is to choose to be who we already are. Whatever roots we possess, whatever traits we have, are subsumed in the unity that exists because we happen to be part of the same creation.

We are in the midst of a huge migration of all of us in the direction of the world that has been called the immanent frame, All within this world are equal citizens, endowed with the same capacities, the same potential. Concern for the ordinary person should simply mean concern for every last one on earth. We do not live in a world that acknowledges universality in a real sense. So we have articles like today's Times piece and you wonder whether it is worth it to fight for some clarity. Believe me. It is the main battle we face.