So about a week ago, Jim Geraghty wrote a NR piece under the inticing head and sub-head:
We watch well-established institutions veer to the left, then crash and burn.
He documents the on-going failures of those three institutions and concludes with a question:
And shouldn’t progressives ask themselves why they’re so determined to use university campuses, cable sports networks, and comic books as the venues for their arguments?
They should ask themselves such questions, but then isn’t it part of progressiveness NOT to engage in self-examination. I don’t think they are using those institutions, or any other, as “venues for their arguments” because they don’t have arguments. They just see things as wrong and they try to make them right, or at least what they think is “right.” They are not so much ideologues as they are “reactionaries.” Now, of course, “reactionary” is a term typically reserved for attachment to extremest conservatives, but in this case I mean it in the sense that they react, they don’t argue. If they were advancing a set of ideas they would have to stop and think to make sure they were acting in accordance with those ideas. Thinking would require that they ask why it is so many things do not measure up to their ideas which would also force them to at least ask if there was something about them that caused them to perceive problems when so many seemed to think things were just fine – in other words they would have to engage in self-examination.
What’s really going on here is an effort to normalize that which is not normal. I am reminded on one of Rush Limbaugh’s very unkind “Undeniable Truths of Life:”
Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.
In general terms, what Limbaugh is driving at is that many of the things progressives pursue is an effort to somehow make outliers normal. They want minorities to have the same power majorities do – but in a majoritarian society, how do decisions ever get made if that is actually true? In a meritocracy, they want to assign merit to that which is not meritorious. They are parasites on institutions because they do not succeed in the institutions; therefore, they seek to change the institution rather than change whatever it is in themselves that is preventing them from succeeding. They simply refuse to consider, ever, that they are the issue.
I have often said that the root of the problems that face our nation require the Church to solve, not government. This reinforces that point – the issue here is a soul-sickness that refuses to see oneself. Government is not designed to address soul-sickness, but the Church most certainly is. However, this particular phenomena also presents the Church with a huge challenge. Truly accessing what we have to offer starts with understanding that we are the problem. The grand narrative of the Bible is that after centuries of trying to fix the world, God figured out He had to fix people first and then sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We have to allow God to fix us so that we can be the tools, the media even, through which He fixes the world. But if people refuse to understand they need fixing….
That grand narrative also contains the key to success. Let’s be honest, the Holy Spirit does most of the transformative work, but Jesus came first. Why is that? I think the answer is straightforward, we can see Jesus. We need to see what a good life looks like so that we can even begin to look at our own and see how much it needs fixing. Words and arguments are not what is needed, but proof of what life should be is. In the end, that is the job of the church – to be that proof.
For some time we enjoyed an advantage in America. The prevailing Christian ethos of the nation meant that everyone came with some sense of their own failings. That made it pretty easy to be the church. But that ethos is long gone and the job of being the church is now much harder. The world is darker so our light has to be brighter. The only way people are going to see their own failings is if they see incandescently bright examples of people with equally bad failings that have been redeemed. It is no longer good enough for us to be a little bit better than the world, a church that is not only in the world, but at least a little bit part of it. We have to be something apart and extraordinary.
How do you react when you read the book of Acts? I know I often think the early church were weird. I struggle to imagine what it would be like to be in a city where they were – radical community in a competitive market – radical love in a world of dog-eat-dog. I will not contend that what the church needs to be today is what it was in the first century, but I will contend that it needs to be radically different than the world is today.
It is easy to be the church and weep for the world. Fortunately God has arranged it that we don’t have to fix the world. Rather, we have to allow Him to fix us and the world will follow in our wake. That’s radical and quite different, but is what we are called to do.