So, I was reading a piece in the Economist about how Americans trust in institutions and government has waxed and waned over the centuries. The article points out that the current wane is different than previous, exacerbated by the deep political divides in the nation:
Trust in institutions has risen and fallen over that same post-war period in line with external events, plunging after the Watergate scandal, for instance, and during recessions. Yet something new seems to be happening. Anti-government cynicism is feeding on gulfs in society.
This is a fair enough observation. The author then goes on to point at right wing cynicism over left wing motives as part of the problem. Of course the left has been painting the right as “getting rich on the backs of the poor” for decades now.
Obama may decry political polarization, yet his administration is the most divisive in memory.
Some of this phenomena is due to the “media culture.” There as been a recent spate of articles pointing out that life just does not follow the neat narrative of the “hero’s journey,” yet the media, and some of our politicians want to view the world that way.
The changing of education is, of course, part of the problem. Democracy is based on an educated public, hence public education has been part of the nation almost since its inception.
That the language of love has become utterly sentimentalized in our society is a commonplace. Once it was a hardheaded, self-sacrificial, outward looking concept which looked to the well-being and needs of others. Now it often means little more than that which makes me feel good or brings personal satisfaction.
He discusses marriage in this post, but substitute “Christian faith” for the word “love” (they are part-and-parcel of one another) and those sentences will still ring quite true. I wrote last Friday about how Evangelical thinking does not involve much thinking.
Of course political gaps are growing because people no longer even know why they want something – they simply want and are willing to do battle over it. Things becomes dogmatic instead of reasoned.
As this blog began, one of the reasons I was willing to accept Mormonism into the fold of Christian faith was because I met far too many reasonable Mormons. A cult is marked by the lack of reason – not necessarily in theological statement, but in the lives of adherents. Leftism long ago took on cultic aspects. We on the right won because largely as believers of some sort, we had reason on our side. But our faith seems to be failing us, because many of us are simply as dogmatic in on our side as the left is on theirs.
This has happened in churches because those of us on the right have retreated. When the left assaulted the mainline denominations, institutions that have the infrastructure to support genuine debate, we retreated into our Evangelical congregations which lack any sort of serious infrastructure at all. We bought into the “live and let live” idea and did not go to battle for our faith and its reason. Or we fought but a single battle, lost, and then retreated.
And now we stand on the brink. We can still win, but not if we retreat again. The battle must be joined or the war is lost. As soldiers in that war we start by getting trained. We need to start reading and build the reasoned underpinnings of our faith in our own lives. We need to demand that our children and those around us not simply desire, but can argue for their desires. We need to not be so self-centered that we cannot compromise. We may need to lose a few more battles so we can win the war.
These are perilous times. They are not for the timid and they not for the weak. Humble boldness and meek strength are the orders of the day. Those things can only come from diving into our faith with a seriousness that we have not shown in recent decades. It is time to be serious.