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I Guess I Am Contemptible – Now What?

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When Hillary Clinton declared half of Trump supporters as being in a “basket of deplorables” I did not take it personally.  For one thing, at the time, my reluctance to vote for Trump was winning the day.  Moreover, Clinton is such a proven liar that I long ago quite assigning any merit to pretty much anything she says.  However, in the liberal panic that has ensued post election and the way I have been treated in conversation by some of my liberal friends and acquaintances I have come to take that assignation very personally.  My deep reluctance to vote for Trump notwithstanding, some people I know have treated me, very directly, as if I were among the most contemptible of people.

Given the obvious emotional stress so many of my liberal friends are experiencing and the nature of the Republican/conservative victory, not just Trump victory, that we just experienced, do I not have a Christian duty to reach out and try and comfort those suffering?  Is it not important to offer reason in the face of such unreasonable fear, not in an effort to win the debate, but rather to assuage the fear and calm the waters?  As the electoral victors it is our job to build unity in the nation once again.  But what I have been greeted by in some instances is not fear and anxiety, but anger – anger aimed directly at me – anger expressed in terms that do not reflect anger as a secondary emotion which it typically is, but righteous anger, as if I were the devil incarnate.

Into these experiences of recent days steps this National Review piece by Robert Cherry in which he examines the movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” and opines on the three deeply American values it depicts, “patriotism, religion, and individual perseverance.”  These three paragraphs from Cherry ring very true in light of my recent experiences:

Many older liberals associate patriotism with U.S. imperialism abroad and Jim Crow at home. Some continue to believe that racial injustice in America and Islamic terrorism in the Middle East are fundamentally the result of these past policies. As a result, there is often a visceral negative reaction to the openly patriotic views expressed by many white working-class families — a belief that their patriotism reflects racist-driven notions of American superiority. Thus, many liberal professionals have little respect for the white working class’s love of country or for its sons’ (and daughters’) continued willingness to join the military for patriotic reasons.

In the movie, we see how religious beliefs promote efforts to help others. While there are a few Evangelical leaders who seek to impose their religious values on society, the vast majority of deeply religious individuals are focused on how to conduct their own lives in the service of family and community. It is primarily when government requires them to behave against their religious beliefs — e.g., bake cakes for a gay wedding — that they mobilize politically. And yet the liberal professional class has disdain for these traditional religious values, famously expressed by President Obama, who claimed that when these individuals are confronted with adversity, “they cling to guns or religion.” By contrast, these liberals have nothing negative to say about religious people who attend mosques or traditionally black churches.

The film also highlights individual perseverance: how the hero did not succumb to defeatism when confronted by obstacles; how he relied on his own initiative rather than becoming a victim by waiting passively for outside intervention. This attitude explains why a large share of white working-class America believes entitlements stifle individual initiative or excuse dysfunctional behaviors of the poor, regardless of race — drug addiction, absent fathers, inadequate parenting, and violent criminal behavior. 

I have found myself castigated for daring to read more and be better informed than others.  That is not simply a rejection of personal initiative; it is a condemnation of it.  Such assaults put me in mind of  Hewitt and Arnn’s recent conversations on tyranny.  There is a temptation to respond in kind, but it is a temptation that must be resisted.  Both the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul warn against such like for like response.  There is also a tendency to think that time and “emotional space” will somehow calm this down.  But I do not think so, if the anger I am experiencing really is righteous anger, it will not fade with time as such anger is under-girded by the sensation of righteousness.  And unfortunately when one’s sense of righteousness comes from other than Christian sources, there is no admonition to humility.

So what to do?  Well, for one, remain of gentle and good character.  We still have an obligation to build unity; to be dismissive or overtly aggressive will not be perceived as welcoming nor unifying.  But we also have to be persistent.  I think the place to start is with our cultural choices.  Let me give you one very personal example.

Regular readers know of my life-long love of superhero comics.  This should be a golden age for me with all the media devoted to these characters.  Most accessible of this media is the Greg Berlanti produced CW shows based on DC Comics characters.  Comics have been instruments of propaganda since their inception just prior to WWII.  In WWII, comics became a staunch upholder of traditional American values, and this traditionalism trend continued well into the 1980’s when comics became “hip.”.   It is not at all surprising that the current incarnations would attempt to propagandize.  But these Berlanti shows are not even the slightest bit subtle.  They are “in-your’face” with a liberal perspective.  They basically dare those of us that are lifelong fans of the genre and the characters to walk away.  And so, with great sadness I am.

I am certain that within your own life there are similar cultural consumptive choices that you can make.  This is not a time for debate, for our opponents appear unwilling to have such a discussion.  We voted with our votes and now we must vote with our feet.  Protests and demonstrations are the milieu of the left; more an exercise in self-expression than genuinely change-inducing.  I am also not talking about a boycott here, nothing organized like that.  I am just suggesting it is time we started making choices in our consumptive behaviors.  We need to stand very firm in our convictions while being gentle in our character.

Election day was the beginning of change, but it is becoming increasingly clear that this change is going to be fought tooth and toenail.  We cannot allow our opposition’s willingness to get very ugly to turn us ugly as well.

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