Very interesting profile of Frank Luntz by Molly Ball in The Atlantic today. The piece is two things really – one is a description of some deeply personal and emotional stuff that Luntz is dealing with and the other is a look at some serious problems facing the nation that no one is much talking about and no one at all seems to have a solution for.
The first comment I have to make about this is that to approach the subject as a personal profile is part of the problem. It describes Luntz’ reaction to the last election as a deep depression and says this:
It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”
I cannot help but reflect on the fact that part of the reason people are not “interested in hearing other points of view,” and “want to impose their opinions rather than express them: is because everything has become personal. Those are indications that personal desire has become paramount – nothing matters but what “I” want. By making this article about Luntz’ personal struggle instead of about the ideas at stake is to make the individual more paramount than the ideas, which is the problem being described.
Luntz’ solution; however seems awful:
Most of all, Luntz says, he wishes we would stop yelling at one another. Luntz dreams of drafting some of the rich CEOs he is friends with to come up with a plan for saving America from its elected officials. “The politicians have failed; now it’s up to the business community to stand up and be heard,” he tells me. “I want the business community to step up.” Having once thought elites needed to listen to regular people, he now wants the people to learn from their moneyed betters.
That seems like an amazing disconnect to me. Business’ objective is to fulfill personal, individual desire – what can it possible teach someone about subjecting personal desire for the sake of the whole? Furthermore, are people really taking these discordant cues from DC? Or has something changed in the American people to make them more susceptible to the discord that has always been the case there?
Certainly the ever increasing media presence in DC has revealed the discord more and more which has served to then increase that discord, but can we even blame this entirely on the media? As an avid consumer of the political rag sheets, what’s actually amazing is how few people really do consume them. No, it’s not just that.
This is nothing short of a spiritual crisis in the nation. Churches are better organized for political action than they have ever been in our history, but are they anymore organized to build the kind of people that a nation like ours needs to really function? Big swaths of America Christianity are now dedicated to a model of the church based on a model as service provider not person builder. Vast portions of the faith in this nation follow – they do not lead. Large chunks of Christianity have absorbed the lessons of business and the result has been the crisis in which we now find ourselves.
No, the solution to the problem that Luntz’ correctly senses will not come from his business cronies. It will come from the church reclaiming its rightful place in the American culture. Political action on the part of the church may happen from time to time, but it is not how the church is best suited to change things. Rather the church is at its best when it is a culture maker, not a culture follower. When the church makes the culture then the politics will follow.
And it should be noted that making culture is not simply a matter of having the majority of people stand in the right place on the issues of the day – that’s just more politics. It is about the very hard work of building people of sufficient character that they arrive at political stances without direct church intervention. It is about the church building leaders that fan out through the community (not just keep the church running) and help others arrive at the same point.
Making culture is about making people, for example, that do not watch soft porn on cable TV because they do not like it, not because they are told it is bad for them or because it violates religious teaching. This is what the church was designed and ordained to do. If the church does this, culture and politics will follow as naturally as the dawn comes each day.