Below you will find brief sketches of a number of things I’ve been working on saying, but haven’t actually gotten around to putting in published form. Drafts, and outlines of drafts, if you will. Mixed in are some of my final thoughts. It’s a bit late in the cycle to try to throw any new advice out there, or change minds (though I suppose that’s possible), but for what these tidbits may be worth, here they are.
1. I took the name of my blog from a concept I find throughout much of G. K. Chesterton’s work, and which echoes at times more strongly in C. S. Lewis’s writing, and which can be found elsewhere: the mighty joy of a thing gone right, the wonder of the normal. But Chesterton had a keen eye for certain realities beyond the Earth as well, and as this election season has seen us all rather out of sorts, I have thought quite a bit of a pair of lines he wrote:
The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide;
Take not Thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.
As Americans we are used to having all the worldly force and thunder, and not uncommonly assume that that equates to divine might backing us up – you would think the rather dubious results of the last several wars would have got through even the thickest skull by now, but pride is an awful thing. And I’m not sure we’ve seen a pair of major party candidates better chosen to represent that peculiar American pride of being in “the system” but somehow also better than it: Clinton’s a party politician groomed for office for years, but riding various “firsts” and would-be adulation, while Trump is from money, not particularly good with money, but still has lots of money – and fame.
2. If Chesterton’s insights into deeper reality seem a startling defiance of common sense at times, the insights of Kipling, another well-loved author, are nothing but common sense. Despite Chesterton labeling Kipling a “heretic” in one volume (a title probably theologically deserved, but that’s a different topic), and despite our own tendency to find Kipling desperately out of touch with our modern political shibboleths, it’s curious how much is prescient – or perhaps just always common to man – in his writing.
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men had lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
Between the Democratic party’s explicit support of various sexual perversions, and Donald Trump’s own indecencies, and the various cultural trends and social drifts noticed with alarm by census-takers in various places, we could hardly have penned a more directly aimed stanza today.
3. The more I have considered the matter, the more difficult it becomes for me to find ways to justify support for either Clinton or Trump if one is a Christian. The Democratic Party platform is more and more embracing as essentially good actions Christianity teaches are wrong: Clinton’s opinions have changed in step with this pressure. Trump is – equally an opportunist, and more noticeably so, and no better morally, and not even trustworthy, that I can tell, with regard to any position he may profess if he sees profit elsewhere. The arguments that one must be elected to stop the other seem dubious at best.
If a referendum were held in which we were told that either murder would not be prosecuted, or rape would not be prosecuted – no third option here, in this thought experiment – any Christian ought to abstain. Yet by proxy this is essentially one of the questions being played out by our major parties: the Democratic party at its most honest claims abortion is a necessary or justifiable killing, and at its less honest doesn’t even admit that. Meanwhile, Trump’s past lewd comments are hardly belied by more recent speech. But at least for now there are other options. A mass desertion by Christians of both major parties might – even if not sufficient to change anything in this election – prove a pragmatic lesson to some political bean counter. Continuing to clamor after the lesser of evils – especially in this event where there really is nothing much to say for either – will get us more of the same, only more so.
4. On the other hand, certain progressives have noted – with glee or bewilderment – that many evangelicals are, after having hounded Bill Clinton for his behavior, all aboard for Trump. It’s easy enough to call it “hypocrisy”, but another way of saying this is that 1996 Bill Clinton could probably win the 2016 Republican nomination – and not because of the economy. In today’s context, the Clinton presidency could be noted mostly for a bunch of policy legislation that’s been struck down or frowned on – Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and so on. Compare the Democratic Party platform mentioned above – and whatever may have happened in other spheres, socially the political scene has moved leftward. Now it’s idiocy to elect a sexually irresponsible man because you’re worried about sexual perversion, but it’s annoying to see people talking about Trump vs. Bill Clinton without taking account of the fact that it’s now Trump vs. …whatever the latest fad in this-sex-is-actually-okay is.
5. On the other hand, I’m even more baffled by Christians trying to make some sort of hero out of Trump. Granted I don’t even agree it’s necessary to vote for him to stop Clinton – granted I even expect his actual policy if in office to be substantially the same as hers would be, just more tactless – taking the facts with the facts how can you play Trump as a “good guy”?
6. One of the things that caught me most off guard, though, was a comment I saw in which a vote for Trump was defended because McMullin was not an option – he’s “a heretic”. I’d not dispute the claim theologically, but that that would still be the first and apparently only box for some voters shocked me. We hear so much about racism and sexism that everybody knows they exist (or at the very least has to find some way to deny they exist, or ignore them), but relatively little about religious bigotry (perhaps because much of the media doesn’t really care for or about religion at all, I’m tempted to think) unless we can drag foreign cultures into it too. But it did give me, as they say, pause: and as it caught me by surprise it gives me cause to doubt whether the talking heads analyzing things know all that much about what they’re talking about.
7. One of my least favorite developments this election cycle was the #never tags. Mostly Trump, some Clinton. Never is, as Treebeard says, too long a word. Certainly I will not vote for either tomorrow. But Clinton could prove so effective a president that even ideological faults would have to be forgiven (…or other candidates could be worse). Trump could pick some smart people to actually run the show and enjoy Hollywood figurehead status while letting the country get on with things, and that could actually be a good thing. Mind you, I’m not saying I expect either of these things to happen. But they could – or any number of other variations. The horse could learn to sing. And thus I don’t like “never”, especially about persons. Ideas or actions, there’s a different story.
8. I tend to wrap up pre-election posts – when I bother to make them at all – with brief poetry advising common sense. In fact sometimes I’ll leave the entire post at that. But I did that already, and it seems time perhaps for a more sober reflection. I’ve written a number of things referencing the Faith, so perhaps a word of calmness (selections from Psalm 46):
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved:
He uttered his voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of Hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;
He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;
He burneth the chariot in the fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”