I’m pleased to publish this guest post from first time Mere O contributor Michael Graham. It’s a nice complement to this older piece by Alastair Roberts. Both pieces in different ways explain why Donald Trump has become the Republican nominee for the president and force readers to reckon with the real problems Trumpism addresses in the minds of many voters, even while they ought to reject the odious standard bearer for the movement.

We have all heard the never ending refrains of Trump supporters:

“He speaks his mind”

“He is an outsider”

“He will build a wall”

“He is a successful businessman”

“He is self-funded”

“He is a self-made man”

“He stands up to _______…”

Like many of you, I have been scratching my head for months at the Donald Trump phenomenon. Trump is fascinating because his primary campaign has highlighted many cultural issues that have been invisible below the water line. Most of the journalism analyzing the phenomenon addresses his meteoric rise and surprising staying power from two or three angles.

At some point Trump thought pieces will need to move from analyzing the latest controversy, to analyzing how we got here, and finally to prescriptions for addressing what is culturally broken.  The purpose of this piece is to comprehensively cull and collate the most helpful analysis of how we got here in one place. In order to have a look at the many overlapping clusters of factors (hereby referred to as constellations), we will need to be quite brief with both the main principles and their sub-principles.

Voicelessness 

If you consider the Venn diagram above, this article considers voicelessness to be the constellation that has more overlap than all the others. That does not mean the other constellations are any less important, rather, voicelessness is a key unifying principle in understanding the Trump phenomenon. 

Consider this piece in The Atlantic citing a RAND Corporation study, “[V]oters who agreed with the statement “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does” were 86.5 percent more likely to prefer Trump. This feeling of powerlessness and voicelessness was a much better predictor of Trump support than age, race, college attainment, income, attitudes towards Muslims, illegal immigrants, or Hispanic identity.”

Disenfranchisement – Trump supporters seem to have been abandoned by the establishment of both the left and the right, leaving them disenfranchised by the whole political process. The fault lines of the disenfranchisement are manifold: alienated by identity-politics, alienated by pandering to minorities, alienated by perceived trade inequities, and alienated by an erosion of the inerrant American Dream narrative.

Political Correctness and the American Dream – About a year ago, following a funeral, I was asked a curious question by a man in his 80s, “Are you politically correct?” I was not quite sure what he was aiming at. Was he asking me if I had tact as a pastor? Or was he asking me if I was apolitical in my vocation? Or was he asking me something else?

Fast forward 9 months and the question made more sense – the question was a political litmus test to see if I was part of the disenfranchised Trump tribe who were going to stand up and use my limited influence to reclaim “The America Dream” for his grandkids. 

The Mess of the GOP

The Republican party is fractured, divided, and out of touch with many of its constituents.

Fractured and divided GOP – The fault lines have been there for a few election cycles and finally tremors emerged with the Tea Party movement. The party establishment have continued to move towards policy well outside the conservative catechism. The historic planks of that catechism served as a gyroscope that kept the party unified, vertical, and resilient against external forces. Having lost many of those planks, the Republican gyroscope is not rotating with the same velocity nor with very great centrifugal force. As a result, Republicans have become wobbly, divided, and lost their prophetic voice.

Out of Touch GOP – Generally speaking, election cycles function as a feedback loop for politicians to gauge where they stand with their constituency. GOP establishment have been ignoring the check engine light for some time for many key constituencies – Blue-Collar, Evangelicals, fiscal conservatives, and the liberty-minded. This disconnect has been highlighted, stoked, and exacerbated by a vast and complicated network of radio programs, podcasts, blogs, and websites.

Socio-Economic

The American economy is experiencing significant shifts in the 21st century. Urbanization and globalization have begun to run their course. As a result, many jobs have been outsourced and technology has made others obsolete. Further, demographic shifts have occurred as some populations grow while others stagnate or decline. Many of these factors have served to further alienate many Trump supporters who are reeling at their profound loss of cultural and economic influence.

White Underclass – You can read numerous pieces about Donald Trump’s “Rust Belt” strategy and success: WSJThe AtlanticNYT. The white underclass has been left behind by identity politics being particularly put off by the courting of the African American and Latino vote. They are upset at factory after factory closing as manufacturing moves to China, India, and Southeast Asia. They are upset that their kids didn’t get into college and that non-Anglo kid got in and got a minority scholarship. They are fatalistic as to any kind of future economic or cultural future. They are upset that it feels like all of America’s problems are laid at the feet of white males. Much of that frustration is quite understandable if one is empathetic. However, one can see how seeds of xenophobia or racism could be sown in the disenfranchisement.

Education – The data is mixed on the education level of Trump supporters. While many of his Rust Belt supporters are not college educated, there is data that doesn’t make the correlation pure black and white. While on the one hand there is a huge “Diploma Divide,” nevertheless there are plenty of college-educated Trump supporters. The underlying data suggest that while education is a factor that there are far more complex cultural forces at play than solely education. It is likely that different education strata have very different rationales for their Trump support, hence it does not help us to paint these supporters as being unilaterally less educated.

InGroup/OutGroup – There seems to be a heavy sense of insular tribalism and an “Us vs. Them” mentality. If you are in the ingroup you are trusted and protected. If you are in the outgroup then you are the problem and a threat to the ingroup’s way of life and culture. The outgroup is to be demonized, feared, and marginalized. As Yuval Levin has pointed out, community has been replaced by identity in our fractured republic and the net result is increasing tribalism.

Fear, Anger, and Angst 

When one combines the feelings of voicelessness and alienation with the tribal mentality it cannot help but manifest itself in fear, anger, and angst.

Xenophobia, Immigration, and Racism – Trump throws fuel on the tribal fears while purporting to have solutions to the fears. He will build a wall to keep all those drug-and-crime-bringing-rapists’ out. He will beat back all those Indians and Chinese stealing our blue collar and manufacturing jobs and undue all those rotten trade deals. He will commit war crimes to beat back the Muslim terrorists. He will stop the Muslims from coming to the USA. He refuses to disavow KKK support and retweets known hate groups as well as Mussolini. In short, Trump plays on a wide variety of fears: economic fears, safety fears, sexual fears, and cultural influence fears.

Anger and Angst – Trump has successfully channeled all of those fears into anger and angst in a way that creates an infinite feedback loop of recursive fear. This cyclical fear, anger, and angst cycle has given him staying power enabling him to recycle straw men for what is making America not great.

Nationalism – Trump has stoked his own brand of nationalism. This nationalism is about mitigating core culture fears. Economic fears lead to economic and trade policies that allegedly benefit the blue collar worker. Safety fears lead to hard-line and disturbing stances on Muslims and rhetoric about making Mexico pay for a wall. The sense of nationalism seems to be also emboldened by the global developments of Brexit and escalating terror from ISIS.

Talk Radio and Other Media – For seven and half years there has been an endless diatribe of fear and worry coming from the various outlets and figures of conservative media. Many of these figures have recycled the same “the sky is falling” talking points for over a decade. On the one hand, we cannot throw their legitimate criticisms and concerns out with the bath water. On the other hand, what is the net effect of compounding fear and anger over a decade or more? Many constructive voices and policy-minded thinkers remain. However, the majority have seized the ratings boon opportunity of the Obama administration to compound fear and anger rather than catechize. Many “conservative” voices have even gone all-in and are wholesale shills for Trump.

Dispensationalism – After Trumps summit with pastors, it donned on me that many of his closest “evangelical” supporters are the old guard Religious Right Dispensationalists (John Hagee, James Dobson, Robert Jeffress, Jerry Falwell Jr… etc.) and prosperity gospel preachers (more on this later). Dispensationalism is a complicated view of Scripture that outlines various covenants that God has made with man, in particular it is keenly focused on the final dispensation: a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on Earth from Jerusalem. The theological system is pronounced in its cynicism of the mission of the church to the world.

In short, it is a fatalistic eschatology which sees a handful of converts among all people groups but ultimately the powers of evil significantly rise up against the church. The endemic pessimism to the church’s bottom up influence on the world lends itself to pursue the top down influence of politics. The historical modus operandi of the old guard religious right has been to cozy itself to the political machinery of the GOP. This makes perfect sense when viewed through the eschatological fatalism and pessimism of church’s influence on the world.

The theory is that Dispensationalism is so pessimistic about the eschatological future that this fear drives people to want and need the ear of the king in order to feel any sense of security or safety.

Strong-Man

Trump is a man of branding. He knows how to craft an image. One of the images he projects is the political “strong-man.” His image projects elements of populism, fascism, and demagoguery. Here are a few historical figures that are cut from a similar cloth:

Silvio Berlusconi – Back in September of 2015 the Washington Post wrote a rather prescient piece likening Donald to Silvio Berlusconi. Having lived in Italy during the Berlusconi and Forza Italia era, the article made immediate sense to me.  Consider just the opening paragraph, “The lessons of Italian history ought to make Americans a lot more nervous about Donald Trump than they seem to be. Calculated buffoonery is a longstanding tactic for right-wing demagogues looking to alter national political calculations to their own advantage — masking as farce the tragedy they portend.”

Mind you that this was written before the last 10 months of gaffes, blunders, controversies, subterfuge, ludicrous statements, and other ‘buffoonery.’ Berlusconi is another businessman with a long trail of bankrupt businesses, mistresses, ridiculous controversies, and gross demagoguery. Italy is still trying to recover from his 17 years of political influence.

The Caudillo: Chavez, Pinochet, Castro, Noriega – A caudillo is a populist autocratic strong-man in Latin American parlance. A piece in Politico notes, “Scholars, writers and public officials across the continent report that Trump is viewed with horror and fascination by many Latin Americans. They emphasized that Trump has caudillo qualities they [sic] way Pinochet had medals: Cult of personality, rage against the elite, unbridled machismo, an acerbic disregard for the rules—coupled with an apparent willingness to break them at nearly any cost.” The rhetoric, tactics, bravado, machismo, and cajones are obvious and intentional elements to the Trump branding. This is also not to mention the campaign’s manhandling of persons perceived to have wronged the Donald.

Vladimir Putin – Trump and Putin employ very similar political tactics. Both exude pathological levels of confidence, showmanship, and machismo. Both appeal to a vague nationalism that offers no means to accomplish the “greatness.” Both are ruthless negotiators (or at least project that self- image). They share a mutual admiration of one another.

Political Parlor Tricks 

Trump brilliantly pulls from a deep bag of political parlor tricks. He has a proclivity to speak in slogans, nonsensical arguments, simple sentence structures, and a salesman-like heavy use of the 2nd person.

Hollow Superlatives – Trump is notorious for his use of superlatives. Consider these 8 superlative laden quotes from Trump:

 “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

“I’m really rich! I’ll show you that in a second. And by the way: I’m not even saying that in a brag.”

“I’m the most militaristic person ever.”

“I will build a great wall . . . and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.”

“Hillary Clinton was the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States. Hillary was the worst. In the history of the United States there’s never been a secretary of state so bad as Hillary.”

“I would use the greatest minds. I know the best negotiators. I’m in New York – I know the good ones, the bad ones. I always say: ‘I know the ones people think are good.’ I know people you’ve never heard of that are better than all of them.”

“If you really love this country you have a very, very hard time convincing people that what you’re doing is right and that you’re really smart. And, like, a lot of us are really smart. I’m really smart – I went to the Wharton School of Finance.”

“I would hit [ISIS] so hard your head would spin.” 

Nonsensical Statements or Arguments – Listening to Trump put together sentences can be a painful endeavor. Consider these two examples:

Jimmy Kimmel: But isn’t it wrong in America to discriminate against people based on their religion?

Donald Trump: But Jimmy, the problem. I mean look, I am for it. But, look. We have people coming into our country that are looking to do tremendous harm. You look at the two – look at Paris. Look at what happened in Paris. I mean, these people, they did not come from Sweden, okay? Look at what happened in Paris. Look at what happened last week in California, with… with, you know, fourteen people dead. Other people going to die they’re so badly injured. We have a real problem. There’s a tremendous hatred out there. And what I want to do is find out what – you know, you can’t solve a problem until what’s the root cause. And I want to find out what is the problem, what is going on. And, it’s temporary. I’ve had so many call me and say thank you. Now, if you remember, when I did that a week ago, it was like bedlam. All of a sudden – and you watch last night, and you see people talking. They say, “Trump has a point. We have to get down to the problem.” The people that are friends of mine that called, they said, “Donald, you have done us a tremendous service, because we do have a problem, and we have to find out what is the–””

Trump incoherently simultaneously affirms and backpedals from his Muslim ban comments. If you attempt to discern an argument from this it might be something like this:

  1. Terrorists, who were Muslims, killed people in California and Paris.
  2. We don’t know why Muslims sometimes become terrorists and until we can figure out why, then all Muslims should not be allowed in America.
  3. Premise 2 is correct because many people called me and told me so.
  4. I am doing America a tremendous service by banning the Muslims.

Regarding homosexuality:

“It’s like in golf. A lot of people — I don’t want this to sound trivial — but a lot of people are switching to these really long putters, very unattractive. It’s weird. You see these great players with these really long putters, because they can’t sink three-footers anymore. And, I hate it. I am a traditionalist. I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.” – On homosexuality in a 2011 New York Times profile

Trump seems to be making an analogical argument something like this:

  1. There are new long ugly putters in golf that are gaining popularity.
  2. These putters help short putts.
  3. These putters are ugly.
  4. I like the old traditional putters.
  5. Traditional putters are like heterosexuals.
  6. The new long ugly putters are like homosexuals.
  7. Therefore, I prefer heterosexuality.
  8. I am not homophobic because I have gay friends.

Obfuscation – Sometimes I think Donald Trump is part Barack Obama. Beyond the obvious populist ties and hollow rhetoric lies a similar playbook. Like a 12 year old playing Madden football running the same play over and over, Trump seems to borrow heavily from Obama’s strategy of solving one scandal with another scandal. The modern attention span is so short that this actually works. Can you even remember half the Obama scandals? IRS targeting, ACA lies, Benghazi, “Fast and Furious,” GSA, Pigford, Solyndra, executive action in Libya, Associated Press spying, Bergdahl, NSA/PRISM, drone usage, and many more …  Trump moves deftly from one racist comment to a sexist statement to a foreign policy of torture and war crimes. The never ending tickertape of platformless rhetoric rolls on to thunderous applause.

Free Media – In counterintuitive fashion, these scandals seem to have reinforced and codified Trump’s voting base. He is seen as anti-establishment despite his policies. He is seen as a tough nosed negotiator who tells it like it is. He is seen as a “winner.” The idea of “succès de scandale” is hardly a new one with more recent pop-culture iterations of the phrase like, “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Trump has masterfully utilized the free publicity from his many scandals. Consider this report from the New York Times.

Being “pot-committed” – In Texas Hold’em Poker there is a technical term known as being “pot-committed.” The central idea of being “pot-committed” is that you bet heavily early yet as the hand unfolds your odds dwindle yet you keep placing bets because you have significant sums tied up in the pot. The analogs to Trump are quite simple. Months ago one came out in support Trump, perhaps one cringes a bit with each new scandal or gaffe but you are committed and the shame for admitting you bet foolishly outweighs the forces of reason, sober-mindedness, and discernment.

Stockholm Syndrome – There is a very real possibility that many Trump supporters have become so pot-committed that they are seemingly forced to go all-in on Trump’s buffoonery in a way best described as something similar to political Stockholm Syndrome. This is the idea that people have gone beyond being rationally pot-committed to Trump but wholesale identify and aligned their interests with their captor. Trump himself even jokes that his fans are so loyal that he could shoot somebody and they would still support him.

How could people be so undiscerning to continue to support a candidate who openly mocks the discernment of his own voting base?

Post-Modern-Pragmatism 

Post-modernism was a reaction against the hubris of modernism which thought that it could erect a totalizing worldview with only the tools of pure reason. In this way, post-modernity is a tick that requires a host (modernism) and not a standalone philosophy. Richard Rorty made post-modernism a standalone philosophy when he arranged a marriage between post-modernism and pragmatism. Rorty employs post-structuralism to purport that language is a game and words are only useful if they have real world applications. Further, language has no one-to-one relationship with reality and we ought to avoid statements of capital-T Truth. This “final vocabulary” is used by mankind for cruelty and is therefore to be avoided. All of this leads us to the maxim that: what is true works and what works is what is true. Traditionally worldviews have been judged on two different criterion:  1. Is it true?  2. Does it work?  Rorty flattens the criterion on which worldviews are judged into a twisted bit of circular reasoning.

Post-Modern-Pragmatism is relevant as background white noise that is hermeneutically critical to understanding why the mainstream media can’t comprehend the term “evangelical” and what spawn has post-modern-pragmatism wrought.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – This is the idea that much of the ‘religiosity’ in America (especially areas like the Bible Belt) is not the historic Christian faith. This religiosity is an amalgam of gospel-less behavior modification and self-centered happiness-centric self-actualization, all in a system where ‘god’ exists disinterestedly. In short, god wants us to be good and happy boys and girls. Wide swaths of people who self-identify as “evangelical” have no ability to articulate the Gospel that Christ perfectly kept the Law and imputes the Law-breaking of His people to His account while crediting His Law-keeping to His people. Beyond not being able to articulate even the most central idea of the faith there is a total lack of a Biblical worldview. Bless your heart… Jesus is just one blunt tool in the tool belt to help you cope through the hardships of life. This is one reason why pundits and mainstream media have been so shocked by the “evangelical” vote for Trump

“Evangelicals” and the Churched/Unchurched Gap – As a political technical term, “evangelical,” is far too reductionistic and has lost its veracity and explanatory power. Take for instance evangelicals in the Southern Baptist Convention there are wide-ranging and strongly held views. Al Mohler (President of Southern Seminary) and Russell Moore (President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) have both strongly castigated Trump while Jerry Falwell Jr. (President of Liberty University) has publicly endorsed Trump. One might not say this is a fair assessment as the Lynchburg, VA primary  went 44% Rubio, 33% Cruz, and only 8% Trump. The statistics do show a pretty clear trend that how serious one is about the church the less likely one is to vote Trump. Now it should be noted that quite a few churched people have voted Trump in the primary. During the primaries, the more serious the faith the less likely the vote. One might contend that many of the “evangelical” primary-era Trump voters came from heterodox prosperity churches where such Trumpian theatrics and buffoonery seem normative and desirable. We won’t ever know for sure because unfortunately the polling is flat in how it parses theological beliefs.

Since the primary, Trump seems to have swayed a good percentage of those “evangelicals” he could not sway during the primary. It is unclear the respective motives of such voters – perhaps they are merely anti-Hillary, are swayed by the SCOTUS argument, or have succumbed to the same rationales outlined in this article.

Sensate Culture – The core idea of sensate culture is that cultures move from ideational to idealistic to sensate culture over time. In ideational culture, ideas drive the culture and particularly with a view that reality is spiritual. In idealistic culture, the spiritual and material worlds cross-pollinate one another and reality is a mixture of both. In sensate culture, reality is only material and there is no external reality to which one can understand oneself. This theory put forth by renowned Russian sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, has shown remarkable explanatory power particularly in analyzing the history of Western Civilization. Writing in 1934, Sorokin states,

“The organism of the Western society and culture seems to be undergoing one of the deepest and most significant crises of its life… It is the crisis of a Sensate culture, now in its overripe stage…Crises political, agricultural, commercial, and industrial ! Crises of production and distribution. Crises moral, juridicial [sic], religious, scientific, and artistic. Crises of property, of the State, of the family, of industrial enterprise, of the republic and monarchy, autocracy and democracy, fascism and communism, nationalism and internationalism, pacifism and militarism, conservatism and radicalism. Crises of truth, of beauty, of justice, of righteousness. Crises of the whole system of values of our culture.” 

Post-modern-pragmatism expedited an already growing sensate culture.  Sensate cultures are marked by self-contradiction (tragic dualism), chaotic syncretism, endless cultural rehashing (quantitative colossalism), and diminished creativity. Our sensate culture has been paving the highway for decades preparing the way for Trump. One can draw a nearly straight line between Sorokin and The Closing of the American Mind (Allan Bloom), Amusing Ourselves to Death (Neil Postman), and The Medium and the Message (Marshall McLuhan). Post-modern-pragmatism pulverized all religious orthodoxies in its path creating an epistemological power void that secularism filled. Secularism is now destroying the culture of (common) grace that America once had and is replacing it with a shame based culture whose shaming depends on the ever-changing winds of cultural “progress.” We were blind to all of these changes as we were too caught up in the free love of the 60s and 70s, the materialism of the 80s, the wars of the 90s, and the endless distractions of the 21st century.  

Social Forces and Deep Structures

Individualism – There are few cultural forces in the West that are more powerful and unconscious than individualism. We have come to believe that we alone can act as the sole arbitrators of what is true, good, and beautiful and we can arrive at those conclusions from only a handful of highly mediated experiences, artifacts, symbols, and interactions. We bring such confidence to the positions we currently hold even though many of them we haven’t even held ourselves over our own lifetime. As C.S. Lewis put it, there is a chronological snobbery implicit in individualism.

Facebook Echo Chamber – One of the reasons I am so surprised by the Trump phenomenon is that I did not understand how much the Facebook has become an echo chamber of people who agree with me. The echo chamber happens for two reasons:  1. People tend to “friend” people who are like them tribally and if those people leave their tribe then they get “unfriended” or “unfollowed”  2. The Facebook Timeline algorithm seems quite good at providing increasingly “relevant” content and in this instance relevance means echo chamber. I believe this quietly serves to further isolate and exacerbate cultural fault lines because our set of presuppositions, no matter how obscure, can be reinforced 24 hours a day by the Facebook Timeline algorithm that shows me the content from the 8% of my “friends” who categorically agree with me. It is interesting to note that despite being a lifelong conservative that less than 2% of my “friends” on Facebook “like” Donald Trump and that is about commensurate with the number of friends who like Nickelback.

The Internet – When everything ever in print can be digitized, indexed, and searchable weird unintended consequences can happen. For example, I can find whole communities of the most bizarre, deviant, or outlandish sort. Once I stumble into these communities I can then live inside of their eco-system and derive a semblance of identity and belonging. I believe the main factors why cultural paradigm shifts have been occurring with ever shortening time spans between shifts. We digitally embed ourselves into some eco-system to the extent that we have totalized that small eco-system through the means of self-curation. Hence, the internet can both simultaneously be the vastest and deepest ocean known to man or the most obscure and secluded tide pool.

Celebrity Culture 

Our sensate culture has given rise the phenomenon of the celebrity. We are culturally obsessed with inane things like the Kardashians, Biebers, and Kanye West’s of the world. Their antics fill up news feeds, drive ad revenue, go trending, and sell magazines. If attention is the currency of the 21st century, then we are culturally impoverished from all the wasted currency we have spent on these fools. Our collective cultural rubbernecking has functioned as the rebar to the now hardened concrete that is celebrity culture.

Reality TV – Is there a more powerful cultural force driving us deeper into celebrity culture than “reality TV?” In under two decades we have gone from no reality TV to over 300 shows. There is no doubt that The Apprentice consciously and unconsciously served to reinforce a highly crafted public image about Donald Trump. It put forth the image that Donald is truth-speaking, tough-negotiating, and immutably-successful. This was further reinforced as we watched a parade of C and D list celebrities curry Donald’s favor on Celebrity Apprentice. It is impossible to measure how critical reality TV was the Trump’s self-branding but it certainly has not hurt him.

Prosperity Theology – I do not think that prosperity theology has had as significant a role than most of the other factors in this piece. We would be remiss to see the obvious links between the showmanship, populism, rhetoric, sloganeering, and plaguing of the downtrodden. I think some of Trump’s sweep in the Bible belt can be attributed to the role that prosperity theology has had in pre-tilling of the soil. Prosperity theology has certainly helped make narcissistic and greedy men seem healthy and something to which we should aspire.

Narcissism – In an email to fans of his show, comedian Louis C.K. wrote,

“Trump is a messed up guy with a hole in his heart that he tries to fill with money and attention. He can never ever have enough of either and he’ll never stop trying. He’s sick. Which makes him really really interesting. And he pulls you towards him which somehow feels good or fascinatingly bad. He’s not a monster. He’s a sad man. But all this makes him horribly dangerous if he becomes president.”

Without saying the word, Louis C.K. is speaking to Trump’s blatant narcissism. What is scary about narcissism is that it never satiated. Wrongs cannot go impugned and offenses cannot go overlooked. Yet, our sensate culture has been rewired to think not only such behavior to be normative but rather virtuous.

Conclusion

Donald Trump has shed light on many significant fault lines in American culture and highlighted many areas that need addressing. To understand the Trump phenomenon we must begin to comprehend the frustratingly complex and varied organism that is America. If we are to move forward with the American experiment, we will need to become better listeners who are less siloed in our self-curated echo chambers.

A principled pluralistic culture needs a culture of grace that secularism cannot provide. We have been hollowed out by secularism in a way that challenges our institutions, our freedom, and our diverse way of life. We have lost a robust sense of truth, goodness, and beauty. We must become more committed to loving our neighbor as ourselves and as a result investing in building communities that promote human flourishing and culture making.

Michael Graham is Associate Pastor of Orlando Grace Church and CFO of Allogy Interactive. He received his M.Div from Reformed Theological Seminary. When he’s not writing or administrating, he is traveling, running, or photographing with his wife. You can follow him on Twitter @ufmikeg.

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7 Comments

  1. I think the one thing that is being missed is the control system that has been in place for some time. We effectively live in an oligarchy with a pretense of democracy. People do vote for their leaders, but the only candidates with a chance of winning have already been vetted and approved by a small donor class. For quite some time now, most voters have been kept from going rogue and voting for their best interests through a system of fear. You vote either Republican or Democrat because you are scared of what will happen if the other side wins. That, and if you break out of the two party system, you are derided for “wasting your vote”. So, if the Republicans win, black churches will burn and old people and children will starve; If the Democrats win, jack booted thugs will storm your house and shoot your wife (wait, that one did happen). Basically, we are presented with the logical fallacy of a false dilemma where we are told we have only two choices (complete and utter nonsense).
    Trump benefits from this control system, even though he is a rogue, because the elite believe they can salvage it after this election and return everything to normal. I think we face a situation where the fears of both sides about the other are actually justified. My fondest hope is that there will be a massive abandonment of both parties by the voters and that, if one of these two…people…wins, it will be by such a small plurality that the idea of only two parties will be gone for good and we can remember that George Washington warned us what would happen if we allowed political parties, and that HE WAS RIGHT! So,

    Reply

    1. Most of the analyses seem to assume that the ruling institutions are fundamentally good but just need the right people to run them. The existence of the oligarchy shows that the institutions are flawed. We need smaller government, on a local level. In democracy if you vote for say Trump and he doesn’t build a wall all you can do is vote next time round for a Chinese American candidate who can get the job done. If you move jurisdiction however say from America to Canada (as we know that’s where all the liberals move because that’s where all their beloved Hispanics live) you are reducing the tax base of the government, in effect making it poorer. Obviously shifting between the US and Canada is a big move so few do it. If though all fifty states were independent nations, this would be significantly easier. So as a start Texas should become independent.

      Reply

  2. I wonder about the conclusion that post-modern pragmatism (PMP) leads to a reduction in creativity. I’d actually suggest that the opposite is true. PMP is more conducive to creative destruction, which fuels greater creativity. If the author’s thesis is correct, you’d expect that the most libertarian cultures in the world to be hellholes. But Switzerland and Silicon Valley are hardly hellholes. In fact, they’re home to some of the most creative people in the world.

    Reply

    1. I don’t buy it. Creative destruction is not about creativity, its about marketing. Yes we are making improvements in technology, but its doubtful that our culture gets to take credit for this. The advancement in technology can be tracked on an exponential curve dating back to the Mesolithic. We did nothing to change that curve, we are just living in a time that coincides with a steep part of that curve. Technological advancement can give evidence of creativity. The smartphone was creative, once. Creative destruction demands a short life for a smart phone combined with regular upgrades so people will replace there old ones with no ones. That’s not creativity, that’s marketing. By the way, in what sense are Switzerland and Silicon Valley libertaria?. Seems to me that both places are highly regulated, or are you interpreting everything through sex again?

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      1. Honestly, have you ever read Schumpeter? It sure doesn’t sound like it.

        I’m using the term libertarian to refer more to the social sphere, particularly to a culture where morality is primarily implicit rather than explicit. The author is setting up a straw man to make his own penchant for authoritarianism seem more reasonable. Authoritarians are constantly suggesting that everything will fall apart unless we maintain explicit morality. I think the opposite is true. The less we rely on explicit morality, the more likely people are to develop wisdom and live by an implicit morality. That’s what spontaneous order is all about.

        That’s my point in referring to Switzerland and Silicon Valley. Both cultures place a low value on explicit morality, but are still some of the most orderly places on earth.

        Also, libertarians aren’t necessarily opposed to regulations. They are merely opposed to regulations that don’t have the effect of minimizing transaction costs. The economic vitality of both places is a strong indication that local policies lead to transactionally efficient outcomes.

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  3. I also want to add that I see very little around that me that suggests that I live in a sensate culture. Sure, the culture largely rejects black-and-white rules about sexuality. But most people in my corner of the world are fairly self-disciplined, and tend to make reasonably wise decisions in the realm of sexuality. In many ways, I don’t see us as having moved toward a sensate culture. Rather, I see us as having moved to a culture in which individuals are free to gain and exercise wisdom and self-discipline, and don’t need to live their lived under the oppressive hand of the church’s sexual paternalism. Ironically, we’ve become a more ordered society under the libertarian approach.

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  4. There is so much sociology analysis about the Trump phenomenon. I see him as simply a way out from the return to an anti-American, anti-freedom, nanny-state serfdom provided by the Demoncrats. Our schools have failed to educate people about God and economic freedoms thus they are pawns and useful idiots to powerful controlling persons/parties.We are warned & Israel was warned of government’s wicked dangers:

    And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.
    15 “He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.
    16 “And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.
    17 “He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants.
    18 “And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.” (1 Sam. 8:14-18 NKJ)

    And the most amazing thing is that many fall for the deception that they are “too good” to vote for Trump when Jesus Christ Himself said “Render to Caesar” taxes and thus rulership when Caesar Tiberias at that time was kidnapping pre-pubescent kids for his pornographic entertainment. Was Jesus a hypocrite or was he doing what all wise political decisions involve which is to simply “vote” or “submit” to the lesser of all practical evils? I guess a “naive academic ideologue” Jesus could have instructed everyone to do a write-in for Peter his disciple, but Peter would have needed a good head start before the Romans got him!

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