If you watched election night coverage last November you knew the media, and figured their coastal elite buddies as well, were struggling mightily with the outcome. What I had not counted on was how difficult it was going to be for them to come to terms with “the new normal.” We are witnessing some sort of large scale panic attack, mostly reminiscent of a fish removed from the lake, left on the dock and flapping about madly trying to find its way back into water. As the host put it Friday discussing the Paris Accords withdrawal, “The argument is not getting through, only the moral and social signalling.” There seems to be no coherence, only catharsis.
What I certainly failed to appreciate that night was that the meltdown would also appear in the general pubic. Kathy Griffin lies somewhere between elite and general public, but obviously looks ever increasingly like a fish-out-of-water. But what I am really referring to are the kind of people I spend my days with, just working folk of the liberal persuasion who seem to spend ALL of their spare time tweeting or putting on Facebook every anti-Trump thing they can find – funny, nasty, obscene, most of it simply petulant. Even more disturbing is that with each action taken by the new administration we seem to reach a new crescendo of shock, disbelief and outrage. (Weren’t we reminded with every action of the Obama administration that “elections have consequences?”) These are people that I thought would quickly settle down because the necessities of life and work would simply take precedence, but instead they seem to be drawn increasingly into this maelstrom. For the media it is understandable – the maelstrom is their livelihood – I am speaking of people that make a living every day in fashions that are not so public. I honestly saw a Facebook post recently from someone complaining that they were out of Trump jokes but still “needed” to bash Trump.
This has not yet reached the level of an “existential crisis,” because as Wikipedia puts it, “An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life….” There is no questioning going on yet. These people are so entirely certain of their rectitude that questioning their viewpoint seems impossible. It is as if the fish flapping on the dock is, rather than trying to find its way back into the water, trying to turn the air around it into water with its mad contortions. This is so easy to point at and ridicule, but when I tap into the helplessness that I felt so frequently during the Obama administration, ridicule is the furthest thing from my mind. Empathy then begins to take hold. What we are witnessing is that same sense of helplessness, but without a place to turn for comfort.
I said Friday that I was beginning to understand that the last election really was God’s hand in history. I do believe “Aslan in on the move.” We cannot let this maelstrom turn our attention from the things that matter:
…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
I wonder, are we prepared to provide the place for comfort that it is so clearly evident is needed? As is reported in the gospels:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I am not sure the crops are ripe just yet, but it is so clear that the yields will be tremendous, provided we have the labor for the harvest when it comes. It has been put in much less churchy terms by the likes of Rahm Emanuel and Winston Churchill, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Things have got to settle down at some point. Once they do people are going to realize they have build their lives on a poor foundation. Chesterton is often credited (erroneously apparently) with saying “When Man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything.” We have been witnessing the reality of that statement, misattributed though it may be, for quite some time now.
People are coming to understand that not everything is worthy of their worship. But as the statement implies, they will still need to worship. Are we prepared to help them find God? Are we ready and able to show them who is genuinely worthy of their worship? Can we provide wisdom where it is so desperately needed? It should go without saying that part of the reason we are in this mess is because we have not been well prepared – we have not been able to supply the needed wisdom. Now is the time to confess those failures and gird ourselves not to make them again.