In the aftermath of the many scandals of the past week and a half, which began with the Trump tapes, and the consequent loss of endorsements for Trump (and the increasingly appalling support for the man), now is a good time to take stock of where evangelicalism is as a social movement in America and what our post-Trump future will be.
Toward that end, here are seven theses for American evangelicalism after Trump.
1: We are seeing a generational split that suggests deeper issues that exist between boomer evangelicals and gen x and millennial evangelicals.
Architectonic narratives that supposedly Explain All The Things are tricky and often simplistic. So we should be careful about deploying them too readily. That said, in this case the generational divide between the pro-Trump crowd and the Never Trump crowd is… well, stark.
The most prominent pro-Trump evangelicals have been people like Eric Metaxas, James Dobson, Mike Huckabee, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, and Wayne Grudem. Of the lot, Metaxas and Perkins, both 53, are the youngest.
The most prominently Never Trump evangelicals have been people like Russ Moore, Ben Sasse, Eric Erickson, Joe Carter, and Alan Noble. Of that group, Moore and Sasse are the oldest, age 45 and 44 respectively.
To be sure, there have been exceptions to this rule. The more fundamentalist fringes of the SBC have given us some younger Trump supporters. (And boy howdy do I have some stories about the emails I’ve received.)
Meanwhile, many of the older leaders at the roots of the Young Restless Reformed movement have been reliably Never Trump as well. John Piper, Al Mohler, and Doug Wilson have all publicly condemned Trump in no uncertain terms and of the three, Mohler is the youngest at age 56.
But the generational gap still seems to exist broadly speaking, though I sadly have not been able to find any polling that confirms this, even if both media coverage and social media (as well as many anecdotal experiences I’ve had) all suggest that this is the case.
The roots of this split are multiple, I suspect. Here are several that come to mind:
- First, boomer evangelicals still remember a time when evangelicals were close to the halls of power and Christianity was seen as a basic, almost assumed aspect of American public life. It is thus much harder for them to let go of that than it is for gen x and millennial evangelicals.
- For younger evangelicals, our earliest memories of church life are often closely tied to either attractional mega churches or more fundamentalistic congregations. But both of those church experiences in different ways hint at a more marginal role for the church in America’s public life. The attractional model suggests that something has been lost and must be regained (via this new church growth technique cribbed from bad business books). The fundamentalist move suggests a kind of self-imposed exile from a decadent, godless public square, often bundled together with really bad eschatology. But both assume on a foundational level that America is no longer a de facto Christian nation.
- Gen x and millennial Christians are often more conscious of America’s ugly history of racism and so are less inclined to be nationalistic than boomer evangelicals, many of whom are the children of parents who stood by and watched the Civil Rights Movement happen and who pulled their kids out of public schools in response to Brown v. Board. This causes younger Christians to be more suspicious of the American project as a whole and much less comfortable with the kind of god-and-country nationalism that has been a signature quality of the old religious right.
- Many of the institutions built by boomer evangelicals are deeply dependent upon a de facto Christian order to maintain their existence. They are not set up to survive in a world where federal loan money is not available to Christian colleges or where non-ecclesial ministry organizations are subjected to laws about hiring discrimination as it pertains to LGBT individuals or gay and lesbian couples. This quite understandably makes them more keen to protect the status quo. If Liberty University lost access to federal loan funds, Liberty University may well cease to exist. Even the (entirely illusory) hope of Trump appointing SCOTUS justices that can prevent that from happening is a powerful bargaining chip with the current president of Liberty who is also the son of its founder. Younger evangelicals, in a sense, have the luxury of saying “we don’t care if we lose some institutions,” because they are not nearly so invested in those institutions to begin with.
- As we have discussed before, the quality of evangelical theological reflection is rising rapidly. This naturally causes people to begin to ask more careful questions about the role of the church in public life, the role of Christianity in the founding of America, and so on.
For all these reasons, boomer evangelicals and gen x and millennial evangelicals might best be thought of as fairly separate groups as far as polling and sociological analysis is concerned.
2: In many ways, the younger generation is actually being faithful to the call given to us by the boomer evangelicals.
That said, the links between the two groups still exist. One of the many ironies of Trump’s ascent is how it has cast a dark shadow over many of the things that boomer evangelicals wished to teach and pass on to their children.
How many millennial evangelicals heard our boomer pastors and youth leaders talk about the importance of “absolute truth” in our adolescence only to see many of the leaders of that generation embrace a man whose acquaintance with the truth is basically non-existent?
How many of us heard so frequently about the dangers of relativism and are now watching the very people who taught us about those things hem and haw over the appalling failures of their preferred candidate?
The rude way of spinning all this, of course, is to say that the boomers didn’t actually believe what they were saying and we’re better off without them. The far more charitable (and, I hope, accurate) way of understanding it is to say that many boomers really do believe in those things they taught us but, when faced with a threat to one of their greatest idols, they flinched rather than following through on their core principles.
Younger evangelicals are in a dramatically different position because the idol of political power has relatively little appeal to us (we’re far more interested in cultural approval from social and media elites, which is another topic for another day). So when it comes to Trump, we do not have the same kind of draw toward ignoring our principles in this arena that older Trump-supporting evangelicals do.
Rather, we look at the current landscape and many of the things we were taught growing up are precisely what make us so aggressively anti-Trump. If we believe that truth is eternal, objective, unchanging… well, we shouldn’t elect a man who lies more before breakfast than the typical American does in a week.
If Christianity really is pro-women, as so many of us were told throughout the 80s and 90s and early 2000s, well, maybe we shouldn’t support a candidate for president who brags about his ability to sexually assault women without consequence and whose supporters do things like this:
Trump crowd in NC now yelling “lock her up” in reference to the women accusing him of touching them without consent.
— Reid J. Epstein (@reidepstein) October 14, 2016
If character matters, then we probably should, you know, talk about the character of our candidate in our 15-minute explanation of why we endorsed him instead of offering carefully, decadently wrong explanations based on the media and cultural landscape.
The problem here isn’t that the boomers lacked principles or were, en masse, some uniquely bad group of Christians; it’s that the boomers who have embraced Trump have forgotten their principles.
If there is a charitable way of looking at boomer-era evangelicalism in 2016, it is to say that their principles were sound, they have just generally failed to abide by them.
This, of course, squares with what we have been saying for years here at Mere O: We don’t need a full repudiation of American evangelicalism or the Religious Right; we need a better version of them. (And we’re not the only ones saying it.) But the foundations for such a thing are there and, this is key, were provided for us by the same generation that is now embracing Trump.
3: We must resist the pull toward false equivocation.
One of the primary things we have heard from dissident evangelicals this campaign is that we cannot vote for either Trump or Hillary because both are equally bad. But this is the wrong way to approach the problem.
In Hillary Clinton we have a more corrupt version of a standard Democratic politician with a slightly more hawkish streak than President Obama. That’s obviously bad—the Democratic commitment to abortion is a horror, their approach to religious liberty is awful, and their disregard for any social body between the individual and the magistrate is quite possibly enough in itself to disqualify them from receiving evangelical support in normal national elections.
That said, the critiques one could make of Hillary can, in most cases, be made just as easily of her fellow prominent Democrats. The same is not true of Donald Trump. His campaign has been fueled by white nationalism from its earliest days. His misogyny has been known since before he even announced plans to run. In the time since he has run, these things we already knew about (most of which disqualify him) have become more apparent.
But more needs to be said: The man has announced in debates that he would order our military to kill families of suspected terrorists. That is a war crime by any reasonable definition of the term. Moreover, suppose Trump were the commander-in-chief and he gave that command—what comes next? Do our military personnel submit to the orders of the commander-in-chief and commit war crimes? Or do they ignore them? But if they ignore them… what does that mean? If the president gives a command and our military disregards it, who is actually in charge? Did we just have a coup? These are the questions that a Trump presidency will raise—and we haven’t even considered the fact that there is a non-zero chance of Trump using nuclear weapons.
This is what makes the kind of equivocating of a Rusty Reno or Mark Bauerlein so infuriating. In the First Things podcast where they explained their appalling lapse in judgment, Reno said the following:
I was very frustrated by the taboo against any positive reason to support Trump. There’s plenty to criticize about Trump but to me it becomes an exercise in virtue signaling. But I knew I was going to vote for him, so why not step forward and be public about it?
More reflective Christians have become accustomed, for some time, to dismissing politicians of either stripe with some variation of this line. The GOP is bad on x and the Democrats are bad on y so I’m going to just go with the least bad option. We have done this for so long that we have apparently lost all sense of proportion in assessing political evils. And if there has ever been an election where this sort of both-sides-are-bad-ism causes otherwise smart people to say appallingly stupid things, it is this one.
- Behind Door #1 we have an unashamedly pro-choice politician whose picks for SCOTUS will likely be horrible for evangelicals and orthodox Catholics. That is bad. But it is predictably bad and in many of the same ways that President Obama is bad.
- Behind Door #2 we have a politician literally resurrecting the white nationalism of the 60s, who has publicly identified himself as a sexual predator, who has promised to force our military to commit war crimes, and who may well start a nuclear war.
- When asked which door to pick, Reno basically said that the people who said Door 2 is worse than Door 1 are snobs so he’s picking Door 2 just to spite them.
This is not an election for both-sides-are-badism. This is an election for recognizing the wildly abnormal failings of the Republican candidate and coming to some entirely warranted judgments about the political party that would support such a man. (One of which is almost certainly “The Republican party as it currently exists is an enemy of the common good.”)
Failing to understand how bad Trump is will lead us into a kind of foolish hope that the GOP is salvageable. It is not. Whether the whole thing needs to burn down or every person in a prominent position of leadership needs to lose their job, one way or another the GOP as we have known it is finished.
None of this is to say you are obliged to vote for Hillary. It is possible for both candidates to be bad in ways that one finds disqualifying and yet for one of those candidates to be significantly worse than the other.
Taking a more practical approach to the question, there are only a half dozen states that are of any consequence for the presidential election and so citizens outside of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada all have the luxury of approaching their vote as a statement of principle rather than an actual participation in the act of choosing our president. So they can write in Evan McMullin or vote for the American Solidarity party or write in someone like Ben Sasse. These are all fine options.
That said, it’s also entirely reasonable for evangelicals in those swing states to vote Hillary simply to stop Trump. We can continue to fight on abortion and religious liberty under a Hillary administration. (And we ought to.) Nuclear war or a constitutional crisis (both live possibilities with a Trump presidency) are far harder to deal with. So while I will not be voting for Hillary, an evangelical vote for Hillary is far more understandable than a vote for Trump.
4: We must reject the politics of disdain.
One of the stories of 2016 is that it marks the year many prominent people in American politics gave up on the possibilities of persuasion or change in their political opposites. Hillary Clinton has described half of her opponent’s supporters as fitting in a “basket of deplorables” and has said such people are “irredeemable.” Donald Trump has dismissed entire ethnic groups.
Kevin Williamson has dismissed basically the entire rural white under-class. A number of white politicians have made similarly dismissive comments about African Americans. The cultural left has dismissed religious conservatism as being hopelessly and irredeemably bigoted.
2016 has, so far, been the year when our political opposites stopped being human beings and became instead disembodied boxes of beliefs, prejudices, and policies that cannot be changed but can only be smashed, discarded, or otherwise locked away and forgotten.
This is an attitude that Christian people must reject in no uncertain terms. One of the glories of the Gospel is that it tells us no person is beyond redemption, no person is so lost that they cannot be found. Moses was a murderer. Rahab was a prostitute. David was an adulterer and probably a rapist. Manasseh was a blasphemer. In the New Testament we see more of the same—the apostle to the Gentiles was himself either a murder or an accessory to murder, depending on what you make of his involvement in the killing of Stephen.
Church history continues the same story. Augustine’s philandering is notorious, for example. John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace,” was a slave trader. CS Lewis likely slept with his dead best friend’s mother for a number of years after agreeing to care for her if his friend was killed in World War I.
We would do well to develop a habit of reminding ourselves that whoever our irredeemable, deplorable person or people might be, those are the people Christ died for. Those are the people we may, one day, live with in the New Heavens and New Earth. “You have never met a mere mortal,” to borrow from Lewis.
5: Resisting the politics of disdain does not mean we offer cheap grace or fail to make distinctions.
If Donald Trump turned up in a pastor’s office tomorrow and said he wanted to repent of his sin and embrace Christ, the first thing that pastor should tell him is that the Gospel is for him and he is welcome to come to Christ, to dine at the Lord’s Supper, and to be baptized, if he hasn’t been already.
The second thing he should tell him is some variation of “sell all you have and follow Christ.” In Trump’s case, this would almost certainly mean liquidating all his assets, giving most of the money to the poor, and then embracing some kind of personal rule of poverty and asceticism while living in an obscure town somewhere in Montana, refusing all interview requests, and attending a conservative quasi-fundamentalist Bible church that doesn’t have a single person who has even seen an episode of The Apprentice because no one in the congregation owns a TV.
I am entirely serious about this. If Christ could tell his listeners that it is not inappropriate to gouge out one’s eye in order to follow Christ, it’s not unreasonable to think that a man as lecherous, greedy, and narcissistic as Trump should do literally everything he can to give up his wealth, his womanizing, and lust for the limelight.
This, of course, is the point that many Trumpkin evangelicals miss in their assessment of Trump. Even if we grant that his claims of a conversion earlier this year are real (and we’d have to deny a Mount Everest-sized pile of evidence to do that), it does not remotely follow from that repentance that we should, therefore, hand over the nuclear codes to a man whose judgment, temperament, and character all make him a uniquely bad choice for the presidency, even in this uniquely bad election. And the reason here is not because we are electing a pastor-in-chief, but because we are electing a human being who will wield enormous over a tremendous number of people, born and unborn. Character matters for everyone, not just pastors.
Evangelicals can often embrace a kind of selective radicalism when we talk about the nature of grace and forgiveness. We love the idea of the philandering womanizer becoming the next Augustine (as long as we aren’t one of that womanizer’s victims prior to his conversion, of course) but we don’t really have any clue how that process happens after the womanizer says “I repent.” The default move, quite often, is to move toward a kind of default American normalcy in which the person is shoved into programs, told multiple times to start reading their Bible, and is magically expected to “get better.” We then expect them to resume life as it was before because… well, something about God’s forgiveness.
This, of course, ignores a great many important things:
- Spiritual maturity is difficult and, for especially needy people (such as Trump), it requires a great deal of time, effort, and intention not only from the individual seeking maturity but from that individual’s fellow church members who ought to be supporting the person in their pursuit of godliness. This probably means things like praying every morning with his pastor or a trusted friend, attending Bible study weekly, partaking of the Lord’s Supper weekly, and embracing some voluntary rules, such as volunteering in a homeless shelter.
- Though no sin is so great that it can separate us from the love of God, it does not follow from this that all sins should be treated as equal in the day-to-day functioning of the church. When we fail to understand the unique challenges with overcoming certain types of sin, often sexual in nature, we frequently create circumstances in which predators can thrive. They come into the church with a believable conversion story. We uncritically embrace it, fail to understand what spiritual growth (and temptation) will look like for them, and they are immediately welcomed into normal church life. Then 10 years later we’re shocked when a bunch of our kids come forward with stories of abuse.
- Third, failing to recognize the consequences of sin can often lead to poor handling of the people who suffer as a result of the sins of a person who has since expressed penitence. It is especially worth noting how this tendency affects women in the church who are pressured to forgive men who were abusive to them in the past.
All of this is to say that evangelicals need to devote more thought to the dynamics of the Christian life, how Christian maturity happens, and how we can create communities, structures, and ways of living that support the work of maturing in Christ. We also need to remember that the problem with Trump’s character has nothing to do with electing a “pastor-in-chief” and everything to do with the fact that character matters with everyone, politicians very much included. (Or does that concern only apply to Hillary?)
6: We need to soberly assess the problems, both internal and external, facing the American church.
The above considerations naturally lead into a closer reflection on Christian community, spiritual formation, and the work of Christian institutions.
One of the heartening things in the past weeks has been the groundswell of popular opposition to Trump amongst evangelicals. At this point, many prominent young evangelical women have gone after Trump as have non-white evangelicals, and now the evangelical institutions are finally catching up. (The Gospel Coalition and ERLC deserve special credit for being solidly Never Trump since the beginning.) To Christianity Today and World, welcome to the Never Trump Club. We’re glad to have you.
That said, what we’re confronted with now is a series of very difficult problems, all of which will need to be addressed as we move past this wreck of an election. (As Wedgeworth noted on Twitter last week, much of what we and others in the Never Trump camp have been doing is about November 9 far more than it is about November 8.)
- Our own house is gravely disordered. The polling numbers for Trump support from evangelicals from about May (when he sealed the nomination) until quite recently have been appalling. Many of our oldest, most experienced leaders have caved in to this man. From here on out, we deserve whatever we get. We need to fix a great deal of things within our churches and other institutions.
- We need to recover the idea of Christian wisdom as it informs our political life. Clearly many of our leaders have lost this important quality in recent years, abandoning it for a blind and amoral commitment to partisan politics.
- We need to ask the hard and uncomfortable question of how a white nationalist rapist who could trigger a constitutional crisis or nuclear war could poll so extraordinarily well with so many evangelicals for so long.
- We need to invest deeply in Christian education so that our families and their children will have the mental equipment required to resist frauds like Trump and make a credible case for the faith in the public square.
- We need to practice the virtues of hospitality. This election has so badly compromised our witness with many that I fear the only way we will regain it is through the testimony of our lives and the places we create. The situation facing our church may be as simple as “we will create places where the faith is embodied and demonstrated in a day-to-day existential way or we will die.”
- Even as we deal with the disorder in our own house, the enemies are at the gates:
- A pending lawsuit in Massachusetts will determine if a new state law that requires churches to comply with state beliefs about gender fluidity is allowed to stand. If it does, we will be primed for a series of laws that not only destroy religious liberty in this country but also destroy First Amendment protections for free speech.
- On a related note, it’s probable that our university system is not long for this world, if current trends are any indicator.
- Taken together, this means that our rights to free speech, our churches’ independence, and our educational institutions could all be under direct assault in the very near future.
- From this, I think we can say a few more things:
- We need shelters not only to make our faith credible again in the eyes of our neighbors, but also to provide a place where the faith is actually taught and passed on as our institutions are assailed by a technocratic government.
- We need to get serious quickly about the task of Christian education for our children. While we should not bind consciences and tell people that public schools are categorically bad, we should recognize that our nation’s schools have become radically hostile to orthodoxy and we should plan accordingly. (This will cost us money.)
- Our churches need to be equipped by their pastors to see and understand what is happening and to read it rightly. This means that our pastors also need to be equipped
7: Christians should not be surprised by unexpected resurrection.
One of my favorite things about studying history is coming up against those great “what if?” moments in world affairs. When Ogedei Khan died from a heart attack in his 50s, the Mongol general Tsubotai was probably close to Vienna. He had already swept through Russia and there’s no credible reason to think the Germans or Franks would have been any more competent to resist him than the Russians.
If Ogedei had a normal heart, he likely would have lived longer and his generals would have been free to march to the Atlantic. Instead, the Khan died and his generals had to return home. The Mongols never marched that far west again as a single, unified force. The course of western history quite literally swung on the fact that Genghis Khan’s heir had a bad heart.
You come up against these things regularly if you spend any time reading history, which I think everyone ought to be doing. In writing a paper about Martin Bucer, I learned that he was only days away from having his request to be released from the Dominicans turned down by the pope. Cardinal Aleander had arrived in Germany and heard about the young Dominican with Lutheran sympathies and sent a sternly worded letter to the pope telling him not to release Bucer.
Unfortunately for Rome, by the time Aleander’s letter arrived, the pope had already approved Bucer’s request. The man who would play arguably the largest role in developing the modern Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and who would shape John Calvin’s pastoral theology over three years of mentoring him in Strasbourg could easily have been burned by the Dominicans as a heretic before he had the chance to do any of that. A significant part of the Reformation turned on the fact that Aleander’s letter took too long to get to the pope.
The lesson from both of these stories is that history routinely turns on seemingly small, insignificant things. An emperor has a weak heart. A cardinal can’t get a letter to Rome fast enough. Small things can change the world and we almost never know what those small things are at the time they happen. We who are living in the western world in 2016 do not know what the years to come will hold.
It is possible that we are in the same position as north African Christians in the 11th century, living in a formerly Christian culture that is rapidly fading. It’s possible that, as was the case in north Africa, our church will be dead within a century. Let me repeat myself: It is entirely possible (and maybe even probable!) that the western church will be dead by 2100.
But, then, it is entirely possible that we are on the brink of a revival that will sweep across the west. There have been other times in the western church’s history where our future looked bleak and we rebounded. As Christians, we should not be surprised by, to borrow a marvelous phrase from Ross Douthat, unexpected resurrection.
I continue to be confused by the fact that Trump’s line about killing the families of suspected terrorists is used as evidence that he is worse than Hillary. Yes, he said it out loud in public, but the current administration, of which Hillary is a part, has actually killed the families of suspected terrorists with drone strikes (double-taps in particular). And the US continues to support Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, even after they dropped (US provided) white phosphorus on civilians. It strikes me that quite often millennials (my generation) seem to care more about words than about actions, but I ask you, is it worse to promise war crimes or to actively aid and abet their commission?
(As a disclaimer, I do agree that Clinton would clearly be a competent president, unlike Trump, and that Trump’s egotism, instability, and lack of self-control make him unfit for office.)
I’m not a fan of Hillary’s either and her foreign policy record is a big reason. That said, I do think there’s a difference about high handedly saying you’ll commit war crimes and committing what are probably war crimes in the fashion that each of the last two administrations have. The former forces questions of authority in ways that the latter does not b/c by the sheer fact of being done covertly the latter at least acknowledges that this is probably a thing that shouldn’t be done and, if it were widely known that it was done, would create enormous trouble for the administration. Both are still horrible and should raise major concerns about the person pursuing such a course of action. But I think the former is more dangerous.
What exactly about her foreign policy record do you disagree with?
I disagree with more-or-less all of American foreign policy; I am anti-military, anti-intelligence-establishment, and anti-interventionist. This is a political option which has not been available in decades.
It’s never been available. It’s illusory and naive.
Jake, I went hunting for some polling numbers to back up your intuitions. All of these come from the Reuters Poll, taken September 19-October 19, 2016 (poll navigator here: http://polling.reuters.com/#poll/TM651Y15_26/).
As you can see, both among White Evangelicals and Evangelicals of all ethnicities there is about a 15-17 point swing from Trump to Clinton among the younger crowd. That’s a substantial shift. The pattern, about a 15 point gap, is replicated if you limit the consideration to just those Evangelicals who attend church at least monthly.
However, a really interesting trend emerges when you control for level of education completed. Older White Evangelicals are pretty consistent–
–but look what happens in the under-50 set:
In other words older educated Evangelicals vote like their less-educated Evangelical age cohort, while younger educated Evangelicals are doing something completely different. The question, as FiveThirtyEight put it, is are you more college or church?
Good point. The divide is as much educational as it is an age-related divide. Further, I’d suggest that this has a lot to do with people’s opinions on social issues. Most younger, college-educated evangelicals tend to place a higher value on individual autonomy. That explains why they remain pro-life, but perhaps for different reasons than their parents. It also explains why they are generally unconcerned about issues like same-sex marriage.
Also, the educational divide is much sharper among younger Americans. My parents have substantive friendships with people who didn’t graduate from college. By contrast, I can’t even think of a non-college-edguacted person with whom I’ve had any contact within the past year. Heck, all of my friends have advanced degrees, although I have a few acquaintances that simply have bachelor’s degrees.
Or these groupings exist for other reasons; such as location. I have seen geographic maps of T-vs-H; and then you look at the demographics of those places … which leads, which follows, [or neither]. These maps typically look like “blueberries floating in ketchup”.
It might be experience – I live in a diverse neighborhood so Trump’s racism rings louder than for people who live elsewhere. Or it might be issues – if you are urban the Republicans have zero-zilch-nada interest in your issues, and typically talk about you as a kind of problem [although our median wage is higher, we pay more in property tax, account for the lion’s share of GDP, …]. I have voted for Republicans in the past, but I have been watching that party distance itself from my people for decades.
Aside: taking a look at demographics – that distancing seems suicidal for a political party.
And if I may be so bold as to speak for others like me – I do not vote as a bid in a grand morality play; the culture war issues do not interest me. I vote on concrete issues, on which candidate/party is speaking to me. I know I’m not alone; I have been in rooms full of people who live in those blueberries [and I have organized some of those meetings]. If I said these things in those rooms, I would get a lot of nods.
You’re right to point out the geographic and population density aspect of the partisan divide in this country. Even before Trump, the last several cycles have seen population density become eerily connected to voting outcomes–the more dense your neighborhood the more “Blue” your policy preferences and voting habits are. Some of this is completely natural; firearms are a completely different proposition with obviously different uses in Butte, Montana compared to Bed-Stuy. Brooklyn.
May I ask what the “concrete issues” that motivate you are?
> Firearms are a completely different proposition with obviously different uses
Exactly. The only reason someone has for carrying a firearm in downtown Grand Rapids, MI is to intimidate people. We are talking about one of the safest places on earth. So why not permit Devolution? That seems to be a quintessentially conservative notion. Let the state have its gun laws, the county have its gun laws, and the municipality have its gun laws – location is a choice, and we permit this on all manner of other issues. Yet the Republican’s argue for states rights. . . sorta-kinda, on only specific issues.
Give us the power to govern ourselves. Tax ourselves, or not; toll ourselves, or not; regulate ourselves, or not, etc…
> May I ask what the “concrete issues” that motivate you are?
Infrastructure, education, and quite literally the old adage about “making the trains run on time”. We are ham-strung by top-down regulations, a continuously declining portion in revenue sharing [the portion of the property taxes that returns to the local municipality], slow and every expensive environmental review processes, constraints on ear-marked funds that do not match actual needs,… I could go on and on and get far into the weeds. But the point is I see a lot of space for a “conservative” voice here – but they simply seem not to be interested. Go to an urban area, listen, and it shouldn’t take someone long to figure out how to get a lot of local support.
I often don’t see much choice but to describe myself as a Conservative Leftist. I believe in the virtuous power of good governance, and I believe that governance – especially from afar – can be a major obstacle to on-the-ground progress.
Exactly what is a ‘conservative’ and what is its history in our country?
It is very hard to define – very vaguely it means “traditional”. Although many “conservatives” are straight up radicals. Hence I tend to use “conservative” in quotes. It has some correlation to “austerity” and “limited government”, although in practice these are also applied selectively.
And its history in our country?
I don’t much buy into defining things historically. Terms can change very quickly. Do current “conservatives” have all that many roots in Burke or Russell Kirk? Such a connection can be hard to see.
The great wars flipped over and mixed up all manner of alignments. For me that is a hard red line of politics, so we only need to trace forward from where that left us. And even that is hard (see Kirk again).
What is “conservatism” today is the only relevant question.
Not really. Southern Dems were the conservatives in Lincoln’s day, wanting to preserve and expand slavery. The conservative Republicans started to meld with them in the late 1930s. Buckley Jr, the founder of modern conservatism, said the South was right to segregate because blacks hadn’t advanced far enough. The conservative South moved toward the conservative wing of the GOP when Goldwater came out against Civil Rights legislation. Conservatism, at least since before the Civil War has always been racist and continues today among some of Trump’s most virulent supporters.
I’m not really sure what motivates me to vote in the way that I do. But, yes, I don’t see the “sex issues” as having much relevance. If you want people to behave better, then you need to foster communities where there are social costs for bad actions. The answer is to develop policies that foster the development of denser networks of social capital in downscale areas, not to legislate morality via ham-fisted abortion restrictions, denying legal recognition to committed same-sex relationships, etc.
> If you want people to behave better,
Exactly. The hand-wringing over moral issues [as poverty, dangerous infrastructure, and inequity are apparently not moral issues] is misguided. Teen pregnancy, violent crime, and the abortion rate – the numbers on these things are all down. Regulation is not the answer for social ills; it – full stop – does not work. In addition, the notion that any politician can put the genie back in the bottle on many of these issues is entirely fantastical; all a politician can do is generate heat and sparks by slamming the grinding wheels of the machine against each other. To the benefit of nobody. The fire from the collision will only further degrade social capital and ultimately lead to increases in all the social ills – in addition to not resolving the issues of children poisoned by lead pipes, orphaned by traffic fatalities, left to fail in underfunded schools… all problems we can solve.
So as soon as I finish reading this article, I turn to this one. http://christandpopculture.com/no-isnt-important-election-lifetime/ . Can it be true? Will a Trump presidency end in nuclear war?
“Even as we deal with the disorder in our own house, the enemies are at the gates:”
But MacIntyre argued in the early 80s that the barbarians were already inside the gate. Cue Rod Dreher.
Taking away the tongue in cheek, I found this essay lucid and agreed on all points. Thank you, Jake. Come to think of it, though, I think a little more specificity on the BenOp might have been in order, though you touched on it in several points. I guess we’re all awaiting the book at this point, eh?
There’s a naiveté in this approach.
Consider: practically speaking, is there a real candidate for president other than Trump or Hillary?
(Cue chorus of “but there could have been” – yes, perhaps there could have been, but at this point there’s not. If your team doesn’t make the playoffs, supporting them in the grand final is just denying reality)
Practically speaking, is it going to be harder to advance the agendas that matter to you under a Trump or Clinton presidency?
[Insert answer here]
Or you could vote for a third party. At this point, would the level of voting that is likely communicate anything meaningful on the national stage?
[Insert answer here]
The big failure here is to make a distinction between endorsement and co-belligerency. You can endorse a candidate, have your picture taken with him/her, and let everyone know that this candidate / party is your great hope for the future. Or you can show a bit of wisdom and shrewdness, and ask “given that I’m going to have issues no matter which candidate gets in, which set of issues would I rather deal with?”. If a temporary alliance with the cockroaches will reduce the power of the termites, then maybe that’s a tradeoff worth making.
There’s a middle ground between “Win at any cost” and “Purity at any cost”. Paul writes: ” I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” (1 Cor 5:9-10). You’re voting for a pagan ruler, not a Christian representative. Given their track record, those who want to call unrepentant Trump or Clinton “one of us” are bringing shame to Christ. But that is a far cry for supporting a vote for them as the least-worst option.
Politics is often called the art of compromise. When you refuse to practically stand against a greater threat because it might help the cause of a lesser one you’re actually demanding perfection or defeat. In this age, that means you’re choosing defeat. (There’s a place for noble surrender, but do so because it best advances your long term goals, not just because fighting might temporarily put you on the same side as some icky people).
> Practically speaking, is it going to be harder to advance the agendas that
> matter to you under a Trump or Clinton presidency?
Clinton / Kaine. Easy question. And maybe next Kaine can run for president! I would be happier about that!
As ever Jake your prescription of long term methods is pretty spot on however the suggestion to vote for Clinton to stop Trump is odd even for the never Trumpers. Doug Wilson whom you cite above has said whilst he wouldn’t vote for Trump would prefer him to Hilary as he’s likely not to kill as many in utero amongst others. Also she wants a war with Russia.
You seem concerned that Trump would delegitimise the Presidency. Surely that’s a good thing. It will advance the cause of States’ rights and repatriate power from the federal government possibly leading to secession. It would be amusing if it’s California who want to leave under Trump rather than the classic Texas under Hilary.
In regards the generational divide the major difference, in regards Trump and Hillary, if you’re white, is the younger you are the more likely you are to be an ethnomasochist. The whole culture for the past 50 years lays all this evils of the world at the white man. It also explains why the more credentialed are more likely to vote Hillary given the safe spaces and whining about white privelige at University.
You sound like you’re calling for near-anarchy. The last 50 years have been only the effort to enforce the Constitution and the spirit of the Declaration. Regarding slavery and segregation white men WERE the problem and unfortunately both were southern conservative Christian institutions. The south went to Goldwater precisely over the Civil Rights issue and then followed him into the conservative wing of the GOP, where they dominate today and are rabidly supporting Trump.
All the 50 states have bureaucracies, police forces, internal representatives etc. All that would die with the Federal government would be the FBI, CIA, IRS, NSA and the military. The first four deserve to be burned- the latter could be provided by the states themselves. Most of the US states are bigger than most countries.
White men were not the problem under slavery. Under 2% of the population owned slaves including some freed blacks. Slavery reduced the working opportunities and thus wages for lower skilled white workers. Lest we forget the black slave traders who sold the Africans into slavery in the first place. To say that white men were the problem is at least a gross simplification.
Goldwater was right. The Civil Rights act replaced forced segregation with forced integration. People should be free to associate or disassociate with whomever they choose
Spoken like a true ‘Lost Causer’. The South had 4 million slaves in 1860. The white South created the market and white and black slave traders filled it. The South needed slaves because the whites couldn’t cut it. Poor whites supported slavery and the war because they didn’t want to share equal social status with blacks and they also knew that blacks could out work them.
Supporting the South in the War Between the States (add your preferred discripter) does not necessarily mean supporting slavery. Note the abolitionist Lysander Spooner who said before the war there were only slaves in the south but after it we were all slaves. Also I see little evidence that poor whites supported slavery per se. Supporting general legal inequality though makes sense in regards poor whites self interest.
Also let us not forget the huge slave markets in the Arab states in the same time period. Now given that there are relatively few blacks in the Middle East I think I know where I’d like to go. To claim the South solely created the market for black African slaves is absurd
I may have done more research than you so I’ll let my comments stand. BTW, who did create the markets for slaves in the South? Why was it necessary to bring in around 400,000 Africans in the first place?
Well the cotton market was a growing industry with big potential. Buying black slaves was more profitable than hiring white workers. The economics seem rather straight forward.
Now it also seems likely that blacks would cope better with the weather so would be more productive than whites however it does not follow that the low skilled whites would like this as it curtails a job prospect which would likely mean accepting lower wages than they otherwise would.
The major beneficiary of slavery were the few white rich slave owners. The purchasers of cotton would likely have some benefit from lower cotton prices. Whether the non-slave owning whites overall benefited is very difficult to answer. Especially because in the absence of slaves the rich whites would have had to invest in capital to make it easier for whites to pick the cotton which would have raised productivity and thus wages.
Finally, whilst slavery was part of the secessionary movement in the South it was hardly all of it- the tariff of abominations was at least another reason. Also the North, well Lincoln at least did not care about slavery, they just wanted to keep the union together.
Lastly, I do like how you completely avoid the issue of the Islamic slave trade and the big markets there.
How is Trump’s “white nationalism” (whatever boogie-man that’s supposed to conjure up) as bad as Hilary’s blatantly anti-Christian agenda and open support for moral abominations like transgender rights? Trump is anti-abortion and supports religious freedom for Christians.
Where does the Bible condemn ethno-nationalism? Last time I read the scriptures, God established an ethno-national state in ancient Israel. If it’s such a terrible thing than why did God create it? Even if Trump were some kind of “racist” (whatever that term even means), in no ways does this make him comparable to an anti-Christ figure like Clinton.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a filthy pervert who slept with prostitutes and denied every tenet of the Christian faith (including the virgin birth and physical resurrection). Christians have to stop deifying these ridiculous liberal concepts of morality invented by the New Left of the 1960s. (p.s. I’m a Millennial, and I wish the older generations would stop mutilating my country because they feel bad about segregation).
Of course someone who openly identifies with the alt-right would have no problem with white-nationalism. For the rest of us, such ideas are immoral and must be rejected.
No one opposed to white nationalism ever gives Biblical support for their opposition. Again, how do you reconcile God establishing an ethno-national state for Israel with your hatred of white nationalism?
Please do not quote Galatians 3:28 and claim that ethnicity and gender has been abolished under the New Testament (unless you support transgender rights).
Here is the best case IMO against ethno-nationalism from a Biblical stand point.
The book of Acts and Paul highlights the fact that the Gospel is not just for the Jews but for all the world (the position of the Jews was special and cannot be transferred elsewhere). The laws which prohibited the Jews mixing, even eating, with non-Jews are now void- we’re all one in Christ. Given this view it is incumbent upon the Christian to foster not just harmonious race relations but also encourage them to mix and work together.
This view however fails for many reasons mainly due to the distinction made between the nations praise in Revelation which shows the distinct races and ethnicities are a good thing. It seems also clear that different nations were always intended from the beginning since filling the whole earth implies geographicallly separated peoples which will necessarily lead to particular ethnic groups and dialects. Thus there is no reason Biblically speaking for a genuine separate but equal status (I checked the thesaurus a while ago and there are no better words for this despite the problematic history of the term) between different ethnicities. Add to this a decentralised sensibility self-governing nations with a predominant ethnicity seem far from bad.
All this does is recognise that people like to associate with those who are most similar to them. Why should we expect the NASCAR fans to want to spend time with the NBA fans and vice-versa. Now it is true that the church serves as a given community in which you have to get along with different sorts of people you wouldn’t normally associate with however there are limit provided by the geography of the local communities. Interestingly I knew a black South African pastor in training who wanted to train in the UK but the leadership culture was so alien to him he returned to Africa. This does noteam that one way is better than the other but having different preferences is fine.
Finally, my criticism of White Nationalism is that it is ahistorical. Being French implies being white but it does not follow that the Frenchman should be interested in whiteness per se. Now it is true that whites are more closely related to each other but they are analogously rather distant extended family compared to other white Frenchmen.
As an addendum to my separate but equal position. It’s the same in regards Church congregations. If you have two groups with divergent ideas as to the future of the church it is better for unity to have an amicable split and to work together as much as possible on with outreach and community projects. Having an uneasy compromise just increases devisivness and power grabs. Further it’s much more likely that friends on either side of the ecclesiological divide will stay friends with a relatively early split in congregations rather than in compromising congregation.
NB- I’m not arguing churches should split at the drop of a hat but that when it is clear there are irreconcilable differences a split should take place ASAP.
I generally agree. However, I think white nationalism is necessary for a place like America because there is no distinct “French” or “Anglo” nation separated from whiteness. Because white people are more alike than non-whites why should they not have their own nation? They have become their own nation.
Well the different ethnic groups of whites that colonised the US are still largely in similar areas and explain to some extent the different cultures in each region. I can’t find the map at the moment but I think there was a book on it recently. This is another reason why I favour secession. Allow each area and people group autonomy. If you have this it is difficult to blame the other side for your problems since you are the masters of your fate. This is in turn produces healthy functioning I communities who can get along with other different ones.
Hi Jake maybe you should say more with less words. No need to pass laws when activist leftist judges can make up their own any time they want! Justices were never meant to have a role in policy making…but to favor restraint and defer to the sovereign states to decide if a law is constitutional and acting as a check on the Feds. How can those justices act as a check on the Feds when justices are federal agents too, If Hillary is President it will change the church and our lifes as never before
I do not understand why the Pharisaical Evangelical “supposed” leaders (R. Moore et. al.) of the world do what they do to Trump rather than Hillary, unless it is shear envy that their own version of “rulership” has been rejected by others. My goodness I did not vote for Trump either in the primaries, but now it is what it is – AND TRUMP IS FAR BETTER THAN THE CLINTON CRIME SYNDICATE! All the Pharisaical Evangelical envy syndicate does is to mislead and cast doubts into weak-minded individuals who cannot do the simple math of elections (which is to vote for the lesser of two evils that can win)!
Jake Meador tirades against Trump to “enviously” bring him down to the evil Hillary level so Meador can justify his own crimes of deception. If Jake would read Dinesh D’Souza’s Stealing America chapter 11 “The Envy Triangle” then I think he can be delivered from his psychosis – which is endemic to intellectual journalist (but can such elitist DARE to read something outside-of-their-box?).
Envy seeks leveling, but its method is not to level the envious person up; rather, it’s to level the target of the envy down. Envy, noted Immanuel Kant, is “intent on the destruction of the happiness of others (i.e., Make America Great Again)
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