So this week we are greeted with an attempt to turn a decades old, informative and value neutral term, “chain migration,” into an offense. Not to mention, in the wake of the awful Florida school shooting, a renewal of efforts to make the offering of “thoughts and prayers” somehow offensive. I am tempted to go on at length about how truly offense-offering this later example is to those of us that not only believe in, but are certain of, the efficaciousness of prayer, but such would be petty and it’s Lent, so I will work extra hard to resist temptation.
That seems to be all the Dems have right now, faux offense – ginned up outrage. But as we quoted Peggy Noonan a couple of weeks ago, “But rage is a poor fuel in politics.” The American people know the difference between style, which can be ginned up, and substance. Ben Shapiro notes today that the apparent normality of the Obama administration provided cover for governance that pushed the envelope very, very hard while the Trump administration is stylistically quite unusual yet functions well inside the boundaries of regular order. The American people have clearly turned their nose up at the stylistically elegant Obama in exchange for a “Dirty Jobs” approach to substance over style.
The media only knows style, because it is, in the end, all they have to sell. Hence “the news” is all about style. The latest presidential Tweet dominates the headlines, while Syria festers like a boil. Elon Musk’s grossly expensive space launch stunt (even a curmudgeon like myself will admit it was really cool, but it is still pure stunt) is discussed endlessly, while the economy perks along at levels not seen in a decade. What matters to media is not always important.
It makes me wonder about how we do church in America anymore. We have endless discussions about music choices and worship service presentation. We go on and on and on about how to make the gospel “attractive” and “not offensive.” That’s media/style stuff, but what could be more substantial than the gospel? Yet the substance seems lost in the show somehow. I cannot help but think that if you want to make the gospel attractive, you should let the gospel make attractive people – for people are the substance of the gospel.
“Thoughts and prayers” can only be cast as offensive if we worry more about what people say on Twitter than what they do in real life. While people are busy casting aspersions towards those offering thoughts and prayers, it is the local congregations in Florida that are offering comfort and material aid to the families of the shooting victims. Many of those victims will be celebrated in memorial services in churches where prayers will be central to the comfort provided. Those prayers will be answered in the form of “the peace that passes all understanding” arriving for the the families and friends that have lost loved ones. Prayer is substance and prayer results in substance.
So while I resist the temptation to be offended by those who are offended by my thoughts and prayers, I will not let this stylistic bit of showmanship detour me from the substantive mission of bringing comfort and reason and cheer to those that are truly suffering in this tragedy.