Pieces are staring to appear here-and-there asking the obvious question in light of the week just past – What can Trump do that will not engender breathless overreaction in the press? It’s a good question. Charles Krauthammer has opined that the press reaction to the whole thing is “over the edge.” The host made fun of it Friday morning on his show by constantly reminding guests that there were “no tanks in the streets of Washington.” (As someone who had the fortune, or misfortune depending on your point of view, of being in the Soviet Union during the failed coup attempt against Gorbachev in 1991 when there actually were tanks in the streets the sarcasm was readily detectable, but the humor was difficult to come by.) But I wonder if ridicule and dismissal is all that is needed in this mess?
Krauthammer has described, much to Twitter’s delight, the Comey dismissal as an “axe murder.” But if you actually read the piece, his accusation is that Trump was artless in doing something that was necessary – a far cry from creating a constitutional crisis ala Richard Nixon. Trump has many times in the past been tasteless. I don’t think I need to recount, nor do I want to for decorum sake. The host certainly thinks Trump was wrong in some comments about a judge. But I am not sure the media are capable of distinguishing those things from one another or from lawlessness and criminality. (Lord knows they had a hard time detecting lawlessness when Obama was president.) And that is a problem, a potentially huge problem.
This whole mess is a sure sign that the moral compass of the press and the portion of the nation they speak for is not pointing north anymore. They have lost the distinctions between the words that title this post. In some cases they have actually and literally inverted them – decriminalized the criminal and made the merely tasteless criminal. Think about it – marijuana legalization is the first move and the severe campus penalties for “hate speech” (name calling) is the second one.
The problem our society faces now is no longer how to bring about conformity with a generally accepted morality, but how to help people make the right choice between opposing moralities. Of course, there have always been opposing moralities, but it is only in recent years that the loudest voice in the room (media) was on the opposite side of things. But if Trump’s artless, tasteless presidency to date has shown us anything, it is that actions speak louder than even the loudest voice – good things are happening while we debate matters of art and taste – regulations are falling like mosquitoes in a cloud of DDT, Obamacare is well down the road to being reversed and of course, Justice Gorsuch.
Trump’s election was the nation joining Charlie Daniels in a chorus of “Long Haired Country Boy:”
‘Cause I ain’t askin’ nobody for nothin’
If I can’t get it on my own
If you don’t like the way I’m livin’
You just leave this long haired country boy alone
The problem is that if the opposing morality gets a few more wins then elections like the last one may not happen anymore, and without the elections there are no actions. Worse, they will not hesitate to force us to follow their morality. Fortunately, the actions are instructive – the results speak for themselves. But really, if you think about it, the actions are instructing us about governance – the morality debate remains at a fever pitch – “Long Haired Country Boy” is is quite libertarian on the matter of marijuana. Actions that are instructive about morality are needed.
The church today is really pretty good at carrying on the debate about morality, but I wonder about the related actions. Do we demonstrate the morality we claim to hold? Moreover, do our actions illustrate the advantages of following that morality? Are our lives abundant? I think that too often we forget Paul’s admonition to the church in Corinth:
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”
Too often we fall prey to the “wisdom” of this world.
It is so good to go to church – to think and sing and pray. But let’s leave church and act and demonstrate and instruct.