THE QUESTION OF RAISING OUR NATIONAL VOICE IN UNISON, HARMONY, COUNTERPOINT OR “??”
(OR WHETHER NATIONAL HEALING IS POSSIBLE WITHOUT A DIAGNOSIS OF THE DISEASE)
The morning after the election, an old college friend of mine contacted me on Facebook. He asked whether I would be spending much more time enjoying the social media victory lap I had been taking, adding that as a community and religious leader I had a responsibility to instead raise my voice toward the goal of national healing. Which led me to ponder what manner of healing might be possible without a diagnosis of the disease or the patient’s acknowledgment of the sickness. There is an old joke about how many psychologists it takes to screw in a lightbulb. The answer is only one, but the lightbulb has to want to be changed.
As I pondered his point, other friends inquired as why, as a religious leader, so many of my posts related to political issues. My response is that I cannot ignore the admonition of our Messiah to, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21) Americans live not in a monarchic empire as was ancient Rome, but in a constitutional, representative republic. In the vernacular, our government is of the people, for the people and by the people. Romans 13:1-7 imposes on the believer the responsibility and duty to become actively involved in the political process. Christians must be involved in our nation’s politics and policies largely because in a republic like ours the people themselves are the government.
American followers of Jesus, by definition, have both the responsibility and privilege to participate in American government and the crafting of policy, laws and ideals. We are mandated by our Messiah to be salt and light in an ethically devolving and morally decaying world. We have an obligation to bring our moral values into the public forum, without apology. We must bring God’s standards to bear in the law-making and administrative policy-making process. As the late Charles Colson often stated, “All law implicitly involves morality…the question is not whether we will legislate morality, but whose morality we will legislate.”
We are not forced to make a Hobson’s choice between faithful representation of our religious responsibilities and the diligent execution of civic duties as if one was antithetical to the other. As both an American and a Christian, I recognize no contradiction between standing up for what I believe in and kneeling before the One in Whom I believe.
As to the allegation of my having taken a victory lap, I believe that to celebrate political victory is not necessarily to gloat over that victory. Or did I just imagine all the exuberance and excitement that was expressed at the result of the last two elections? Or the ensuing joy each time the Supreme Court presumptuously misappropriates for itself a right that constitutionally belongs solely to the states or serendipitously discovers a new constitutional right heretofore unrecognized for over two centuries? Or am I misquoting a president who famously crowed that “elections have consequences … I won.” It is free expression, not gloating, to publicly present a position on social media. It is also free expression, not hatred and certainly not fear, to publicly disagree with someone else’s position.
The following is my attempt (the reader can determine whether reasoned for well or ill) to broach whether national healing is currently possible. I would love nothing more than for our nation to once again come together in a lovely conceptual chorus of Kumbaya. To sing together in unison is a noble thought but perhaps a bit unrealistic. Perhaps to sing in rich harmony might be a more attainable goal, with red and yellow, black and white all being precious in His sight (as if today we could even agree who He, or perhaps She is, or if Any such Personage exists at all in whose sight we could be precious.) The most realistically attainable option may be to attempt Kumbaya in lively counterpoint, with independent rhythms and polyphonous descants that, while providing diverse and varied musical texture, at least has the virtue of everyone maintaining the unity of the same musical key.
Yet I must admit that I have little confidence in the realization of any of the above musical possibilities as long as one side insists on stridently braying The Internationale (the socialist workers’ anthem) while simultaneously accusing everyone with whom they disagree of warbling Deutschland Uber Alles (the German national anthem, but only the first verse, of course – the one sung by the Nazis).
We live today in an environment where difference of opinion seems never to be simply accepted at face value but is automatically attributed to nefarious, deep-rooted, hate-filled intent motivated by bigotry and fear. And so, concern over terrorism automatically becomes Islamophobia; policy disagreements with an African American president must be racism; apprehension about absorbing a free-flowing quantity of undocumented, unvetted and unvaccinated immigrants becomes xenophobia; respect for the life of unborn children becomes a misogynistic “war on women;” distain of Obamacare actually means we hope that sick people die quickly, and what else could acting on religious conscience be but clear evidence of deep-seated homophobia?
I, for one, will never again quietly accept and let stand without answer the Left’s arrogant, smug accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, stupidity and the like. The phenomena is as predictable as it is irrational. The moment any expression of dissent from the latest, ever-leftward progressing bromides of the thought police is identified, the character defamation begins. The Left arrogantly presumes for itself the right to assign any number of psychoanalytical diagnoses. This is done in a bullying attempt to intimidate and silence voices of disagreement.
I often wonder why the Left presume that they have been somehow magically gifted with a prescient ability to accurately read other’s minds and intentions. And their insightful determination always leads to the same, predictable conclusion: that no normal citizen could possibly hold alternate opinions from theirs, absent the vilest motivations of bigotry, fear and hatred. What is the word for when one group accuses another of practices of which they themselves are guilty? Oh yes, projection.
And so, lacking any basis other than their own self-righteous, highly inflated self-opinion, an abrasive, hyperventilating minority within society has been allowed to Leftsplain any dissent from Leftist orthodoxy with basic impunity and without consequence. The Left sacrifices respect for the individual on the altar of group identity. It reduces people to mere labels, as if we can all be defined by being black, white, Hispanic, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, male, female, homosexual, etc. This has made it so easy and so very convenient to reduce every matter to a mentality of “us vs. them.”
But most individuals are informed by their group identities, not defined by them. This could not have been made clearer than by the demographic choices made in the election. The Left was shocked, shocked, by the fact that while 54% of women voted for the female candidate, 44% chose the Republican, as if it were assumed that the female gender’s political sensibilities were dictated by their anatomy. Conversely, no one was surprised that a full 41% of men voted Democrat despite the Republican candidate sharing their gender. In addition, 12% of black voters, 29% of Hispanic voters, 28% of Jewish voters, 52% of Catholic voters, 56% of weekly church goers, and for a supposed “whitelash” (a decidedly racist term if there ever was one, coined by self-identified communist with a CNN platform Van Jones, who possesses a unique penchant to reducing all disagreements to racism), only 58% of white voters went Trump (these estimates come from Pew exit polls, but after this election we all know the value of polls, so caveat emptor). The data reveals with unmistakable clarity that most Americans refuse to allow their consciences to be owned or dictated to on the basis of group identity.
This week we have all witnessed our country having a glorious Peter Finch, Network (1976) film moment, where the right collectively raised our voices at the ballot box and liberatingly affirmed, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore!” The nation was surprised and thrilled that, coast to coast, from county to county, their voices were definitively heard. But the Left, stupefied at the rare and vital bellicosity exhibited by those normally passive in the face of bullying, were improbably shell-shocked.
Network anchors and commentators, those pontificating high priests of media, those imperious proponents of propaganda factories, so inured to telling a nation what and how to think with such smug certainty, were marooned for hours on live TV and for once were quite publicly at a loss for unscripted words. Watching the networks on election night was like seeing the entire five staged spectrum of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief play out before our eyes, as cameras captured the chattering class glacially moving from denial to depression to acceptance. Live reaction images of the Left on election night are reminiscent of the bereaved and hopeless faces last seen in coffee table books on the Great Depression.
The Left gullibly accepted and credulously absorbed the continuously repeated distortions and misrepresentations of one candidate’s statements by the news media, our nation’s ministry of propaganda, and those of our too influential late night comedians. Then, through means of exponential repetition and viral advancement within their self-imposed echo chamber, what began as mere distorted quotations rapidly transformed into falsehoods so compellingly terrifying that the horror of the candidate now extended to the candidate’s supporters as well. The result of this ferocious culture of fearmongering was that the Left, having believed their own lies, frightened themselves so intensely that a victory by that candidate became terrifyingly unimaginable.
This explains the embarrassing but all too real trauma felt on the day following the election among the children of progressives (and progressives who act like children) that Muslims, Jews and Hispanics were about to disappear as they would soon be herded into camps (sorry, Lefties, the only president in US history who utilized internment camps was a Democrat), that all homosexual marriages were on the brink of dissolution, that the economy would collapse (again sorry, Lefties, too late, that ship has already been sailing for eight years) that the outbreak of WW3 was imminent, that the Klan would somehow find a way to rise again, that little school children would be snatched from their beds and returned to countries of family origin (again, sorry Lefties, for those of you with short memories, that already happened to little Elian under the former administration of Mrs. Clinton’s husband), that global warming would immediately accelerate and that, in short, our entire nation is now apocalyptically ruined by the consequence of one election. No wonder the young children of Leftists are having a tough couple of days. Isn’t included in the definition of abusive parenting the subjection of one’s offspring to a steady stream of psychological terror over a period of time? (Special distinction in liberals’ loathsome hall of fame belongs to the haunting video of the disgracefully cruel mother filming her young son with her phone as she kicked him out of the house, shoving him, with packed suitcase, out the door and into the darkness, for having dared to vote Trump in his school’s mock election).
Speaking for myself, I will be silent no more. I will be passive in the face of vicious character assassination no more. I finally recognize the psychological pressure we have endured from our cultural peers as nothing more than “sticks and stones may break our bones but names…” Of course those names, those dismissive, condescending epithets, may not actually hurt us, but their sting assuredly lingers. We have been pretentiously classified as “a basket of deplorables,” “irredeemable” and “un-American.” And yet here we still stand, no matter what dismissive epithets the self-described elite have thrown our way. We have determined to wear them as a badge of honor that serves to strengthen our resolve.
Since the election, many of our cities have been subjected to the violent temper tantrums of commuter hooligans and anarchists. These thugs for hire, bused in and subsidized by George Soros, the Left’s wizened Palpatine understudy, exhibit a stunning lack of grace in defeat and criminal delinquency in expression as they violently protest the results of a free and fair election that simply produced results not to their liking. They continue to issue a contradictory and confusing litany of demands, all of which, however, seemingly revolve around the clarion call to “F___ Trump!” (One can only imagine what, if any, conflagration would exist if only Obama’s vibrant economic recovery had provided jobs for these thugs. As we all remember from the massive riots that ensued following both Obama elections as the violent Right passionately took to the streets … never mind, that didn’t happen.)
Trending (with a bullet) on Twitter are multiple calls for both Trump’s and Pence’s respective assassinations. The Left’s true colors are revealed in the sheer quantity of assassination threats made against our President-elect, reminiscent of the calls for Bush’s assassination in halcyon days gone by. The tolerance of the tolerant class certainly seems to extend to toleration of an entire spectrum of violence and criminal savagery. In a related matter, perhaps revealing an embarrassing lapse in US schools’ failure to offer a basic civics class, a great many earnest fans of majority rule and mob tyranny have demanded repeal of the Electoral College, having forgotten (or never having learned) that America is a masterfully designed republic and not an unfettered democracy.
It seems that many Leftists actively choose to live in a bubble and speak to one another within an echo chamber, rarely, if ever, allowing the penetration of dissenting views (a proclivity not unknown to the Right, to be fair). In fact, the Left views our nation as enemy territory, with the mainstream who have somehow managed to retain traditional values being the enemy. It is also true that the same candidate who coined the ignoble phrase, “basket of deplorables,” a year prior identified Republicans as her greatest collective enemy. It makes sense, then, that a hearty segment of the all-tolerant Left has unapologetically declared ideological war against the majority of our nation, and, indeed, has been intolerantly waging it non-stop for five decades, all the while admonishing those who stand the way of their enlightened agenda to muzzle our “far from the mainstream” opinions and just keep on “reaching across the aisle.”
Yet, well-intentioned but one-sided compromise has proven a losing proposition when progressives perpetually move their goals further left. Each time Right compromises to meet Left halfway, just like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football, we’ve already lost, simply by participating in their game. The Left gets to maintain the illusion of compromise, while each negotiation results in leftward ideological concession. Having been outmaneuvered, by the time we realize the opposition’s tactics, the culture has been perhaps irretrievably transformed ideologically leftward.
Some may question whether the Left ever possessed the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. For a timely example, has there been a presidential election in over a half century where the Left’s main argument relied on actual issues and not broad, thematic accusations against the Right’s candidate: accusations of racism (Goldwater, Trump), bigotry (Nixon, Trump), misogyny (Romney, Trump), stupidity (Ford, Reagan, G.W. Bush, Trump) or unfit temperament in a nuclear age (Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Trump). (I exclude McCain, every Leftist’s favorite Republican “maverick” whose VP choice, Sarah Palin, instead absorbed the vitriol that season, the Left having graced her with a full royal flush of all the standard accusations with the unique addition of being inhumane to animals because she hunted wolves from a helicopter or some other “outrage.”)
It is the stuff of schoolyards and the tactic of bullies to name-call. It is the provenance of higher learning’s academies to debate issues. However, in our upside down society, where the university is more intent on providing protective safe-spaces stocked with crayons than in providing forums of opportunity for the tolerant commingling of opposing ideas and worldviews, it is small wonder that the Left now reliably acts the bully, insisting that society continually bend, twist and conform to its latest flight of demanded fancy, refusing to be satisfied with mere acquiescence or tolerance of new social norms but requiring nothing less than full social acceptance.
Is the reading of Orwell no longer required of our students? (Or is he now simply read ironically?) Orwell’s 1984 presented a cultural boogyman, Emmanuel Goldstein, to whom every wrong, vile and twisted sentiment was attributed and for whom society’s hatred was not only encouraged but demanded by the state as the means to discredit his ideas. Well, apparently in this 1984 version of the Left’s America, I am Emmanuel Goldstein and I will not be silenced (quick, someone print up T-shirts).
Sadly, I have noticed multiple postings this week on Facebook containing the extraordinary instruction that those who voted for Trump unfriend themselves, citing incompatible “belief systems” or differing “worldviews beyond the pale,” or some such absurdity, thus perpetuating their bubbled, echo-y existence and ensuring an accelerating cessation of mutual discourse, clarity and understanding among the American citizenry. In the world of public discourse there is no intolerance quite like that of the self-proclaimed tolerant.
Many on the Left possess a self-assured self-image that sees itself as noble, enlightened advocates for humanity, beacons of goodness and decency. However, the rest of us see any claim to a moral high ground as having been surrendered and find it challenging to recognize nobility from those who, for example, approve of or advocate for the barbarous second/third trimester baby-killing practice of “partial birth abortion.” Attempting to discredit opposition to this heinous practice, the Left proclaims the Right guilty of a “war on women,” an inflammatory charge to which we respond that, indeed, there is a war being waged on women, those females yet unborn, to say nothing of unborn males.
To what extent and at what velocity has society been leftwardly transformed over the past decade? Quarter century? Half century? Is it cultural transformation or cultural deformation? Today, we have offerings of gender-neutral restrooms. We also have parental acquiescence, even encouragement, of their developing children permanently determining their own gender identity, even prior to puberty. So one can only ponder what is on the progressive agenda for tomorrow? What imaginative ethical challenge will be the next offering shoved down society’s throat to satisfy the never-satiated, voracious appetite of progressivism’s god?
Back to the initial question. Can this nation once again unite for a metaphorical rendition of Kumbaya? That might be requesting more of our clearly divided nation than the populace can currently withstand. Are we really engaged in a great uncivil war? It is altogether possible that Americans are so divided that the sole social media posts we can all still feel okay about mutually gracing with a “like” are funny cat videos and cute puppy memes.
2016’s election shock will be good for the system and a healthy cleansing for our Republic. May a new era of persuasive discourse begin, where our constitution is assiduously followed, basic rights, expression and conscience are respected, and political concepts may be evaluated and ideas weighed in the public marketplace sans name-calling, the attribution of nefarious motivations or threat of violent bullying of any sort. Let us remember to follow Paul’s admonition in 1 Tim. 2:1-4 to pray for those in governmental authority. Rom. 13:1-7 explains that no governmental ruler exercises power apart from God’s authority. No matter who would have won 2016’s election, there is no biblical wiggle room for the believer to post #notmypresident. Nor is there any wiggle room for disrespect, disregard, incivility or uncharitability. Of course, “doing unto others” includes telling the truth. But when we do so, we must always speak the truth in love. As we say in Texas, kumbaya, y’all.