- Dis-identifying with the imperium
- Rejecting big, utopian
- She knew Reagan, and Trump is no Reagan
- Exceptions prove rules
- Creating cultures of life
- On getting stale
At the end of his groundbreaking 1981 book After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, MacIntyre drew some parallels between the contemporary West and the Roman world as it declined into the dark ages. “A crucial turning point in that earlier history,” he wrote, “occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium.”
(Yuval Levin, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, emphasis added)
Can men and women of good will continue to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of the American imperium?
If America were a house for sale, wouldn’t it be a fixer-upper at best, likelier, a tear-down? (Take a deep breath before you deny it.)
That it’s a tear-down is, I suspect, the intuition behind both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, but I don’t want either one to supervise the demolition and rebuilding. Instead, I have three words: American Solidarity Party.
You (maybe) heard it here first. I’m in. I’m not giddy about it, but I’m pleased finally to endorse what I’m for and not merely harp about what I’m against (with only hints of what I would be for).
I was never really a Libertarian — and so, it appears, neither are Gary Johnson or William Weld.
Yesterday’s vote by the people of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union is — by several orders of magnitude — the greatest sign that the peoples of the West have lost trust in the institutions of “bigness” with all their empty utopian promises and would rather participate in the difficult work of shaping their own future.
(James Matthew Wilson, The United Kingdom Votes “Localism”)
I can just about imagine the nostrils flaring, the eyes flashing, as Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speech writer, wrote that Donald Trump Is No Ronald Reagan:
There was another couple, intellectuals, also pro-Trump but from early on, and with a certain edge. The lady of that couple, disliking recent criticism of Mr. Trump in these columns, was not jolly but defensive. She leaned in and said that what I didn’t understand was that Donald Trump is Ronald Reagan—an outsider, disliked by the elites, looked down on, a TV star. And yet he became . . . Reagan.
I hear this a lot, mostly from idiots, but this time I engaged …
We went round and round, and in the end resolved nothing.
But what I thought for weeks afterward was: Trump supporters, please stop this. The man you back has never held office and has not proved himself as a leader of men. You have to include that in your arguments.
The pro-Trump logic:
- Ronald Reagan was an outsider, disliked by the elites, looked down on, a TV star;
- Donald Trump is an outsider, disliked by the elites, looked down on, a TV star;
- Therefore Donald Trump is Ronald Reagan:
And, ergo, Homer Simpson is Ronald Reagan, too.
Usually, when X% of “Evangelicals” are behaving badly, digging a bit deeper into the data discloses that Evangelicals who actually attend church regularly do much better. (Yes, there are now “nominal Evangelicals,” just as we Evangelicals used to complain about “nominal Christians,” like Presbyterians and Methodists. Thanks, Moral Majority, for making the term Evangelical so anodyne.) On Trump, for instance, support among what I’ll call observant Evangelicals is lower than that among nominal Evangelicals.
So what’s with this Trump Advisory Board?
I was going to cut-and-paste a fairly extended portion of this, but that would almost certainly have created the false impression that this was another “Oh, poor us!” Christian lament. In fact, what caught my eye first was this, which creates a different false impression:
Given the failure of given forms of identity—family, place, trade, religion, nationality—it is natural that something like sexuality would come to be seen as the sine qua non of a person’s identity. If, to borrow from Hauerwas, I have no story except the story I chose when I had no story, then it’s no surprise at all that sexuality would play a major role in our identities.
So much of modern life screams out at us that we are alienated, isolated selves. In contrast, sex reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that our purpose as human beings is found in the giving of one’s self to the other. Sex, by design we should note, is inevitably a rejection of individualism. So it’s no surprise that it would also come to play the role it has in how many people understand who they are. For many it bonds us to another human being more reliably and certainly than biological family, place, or anything else.
We’ve covered this point before—the breakdown of local community and the traditional home economy made all that we’re seeing today far more likely, if not inevitable …
Put another way, the argument here cannot simply be over questions of religious liberty or the licitness of same-sex acts. It has to be over the most basic questions of human identity and Christians must have a credible answer to this question, which almost certainly means we need an answer that critiques far more than just our sex ethics, but the modern west, and the industrial and post-industrial economy especially, in fairly radical ways.
The way forward for evangelicals is to actually do the hard work of reimagining the political and home economies. It is, to borrow language from Rome, to do the work of creating cultures of life to stand against the dominant culture of death that shapes and defines so much of the modern west ….
Some folks are now admitting, perhaps not for the first time, that Garrison Keillor has been stale on Prairie Home Companion for a couple of decades now.
The thought occurs to me that I may be getting stale on this blog. I try not to obsess about the metrics that WordPress puts on the page as I write, but it appears that I’m not alone in that suspicion.
I never blogged for glory, but I find myself putting more and more thoughts into a Journal that doesn’t see the light of day (though there would be no indictment if it did).
If I conclude that blogging has become no more than a self-indulgent habit, I’ll try to kick that habit.
* * * * *
“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)