The world of politics and world of faith are as close as a tick is to a hound dog – one has ridden on the other for all of human history in some way or another and, of course, it isn’t any different in our time.
Now, these two worlds are both are in crisis, for largely the same reasons. And the open question seems to be, will – can – average Americans step up to save themselves and their heritage for another generation.
Reflecting on the year past and thinking about the year ahead, I was doing some reading over the holidays and was reminded again how the cumulative events of the new century, building on the last century, have delivered us to a paradoxical place where all the political and religious pundits, professionals and experts – Professor Angelo Codevilla’s “Ruling Class” – are largely clueless, struggling in vain to saddle the whirlwind of events.
“The Deep State and the Deep Church”
Both our government and many of our faith institutions are adrift – disconnected in any meaningful way from those they demand to rule, manage, control and serve – willfully indifferent to the profound frustration that disconnection has caused for many whom they seek to lead.
In politics, the progressive marriage of the vast “administrative state” and professional political class – both Republican and Democrat – over the decades has given birth to the dysfunctional, profoundly corrupt federal government, now effectively unaccountable to the taxpayer’s, recklessly stripping away the nation’s heritage, and openly contemptuous of the constitutional order and freedoms they are sworn to preserve.
The average citizen watches and senses a nation in crisis; three quarters of whom tell pollsters that the nation is on the “wrong track.”
In too many of our faith institutions, the leadership have either retreated within the walls of the church speaking only to each other, or joined the caravan of political progressives travelling deep into the politics of “social justice,” a cause in search of a definition.
Two millennia of teaching is upturned in a fortnight, on a whim, and excused as inevitable, while the withering secular attack on faith in the public square has gone largely unchallenged, or worse, accommodated.
In the meantime, the laity have been voting with their feet; millions have left and are leaving communities of faith for good, and others are coalescing around the islands of orthodoxy left. They understand that the “Faith of our Fathers” is in crisis.
In politics, the evidence of this frustration is abundant, and the best confirmation is the rise of Donald Trump, who heads into the early primaries in a commanding position, if the polls and the staggering crowds that he is drawing are any indication. Trump is followed in the polls by Sen. Ted Cruz, and between the two of them are drawing support of half of the primary voters.
But Trump is the bellwether candidate, and it’s amazing how so many people are befuddled how the bellicose New York billionaire has captured the center of the public debate. It isn’t complicated, and it also is directly related to the crisis in the faith communities: Truth matters. Basics matter. America matters.
Mr. Trump has been the only politician willing to state plainly the obvious. He’s a nationalist, not a globalist. He believes in America first. His positions on radical, uncontrolled immigration and refugees, the still sinking economy, government corruption, the Islamic invasion of the West, trade agreements written by lobbyists and trans-national businesses, and the loss of traditional values, touch the center of the nation’s anxiety.
Without apology he is “speaking the mind” of a great many citizen’s in both parties. He has overturned the apple cart of ruling class indifference, and called them out for what they obviously are. He has stood up to the PC crowd, refusing to be cowed.
In the same vein, our faith communities are in a crisis caused by the gulf of between the pew and the pulpit. As an institution in the larger sense, the “church” has been too often be seduced by the very same processes that produced the political “ruling class,” where some of its leadership have steered the ship of faith into the reef of worldly concerns, and claim they have arrived at a new place, with a new message, and a new purpose.
The Gospel isn’t enough evidently.
One example of this glaring gulf is with skyrocketing immigration, both legal and illegal according to an in depth Zogby poll. Institutionally, the churches are pushing for expanded and virtually uncontrolled immigration (and the huge federal funding that goes with relocation services) while the folks sitting in the pews are picking up the tab for greatly increased public services and welfare, while seeing their wages flattened and jobs disappearing. By huge margins they want less immigration.
Defending the faith publicly and restoring genuine evangelism have fallen into disrepair and there doesn’t seem a way to restore it from the institutions down; so, as with our politics, it must be done from the street level up.
There is no other way in 2016.