A reader emailed to ask, “An honest question: how do you balance opinion vs. hope. As a pastor I always emphasize hope (though admittedly I am offering Christ) yet I also clearly emphasize reality.…Yet the question remains: where does responsibility lie with those who speak publicly & are heard?”
Whether writing my daily emails, newspaper columns, or the five hours a day of radio I do, I try to start with reality. A frustration of mine for years has been the media treating the conservative movement and the Republican Party as the same. They are, in my mind, distinct entities that live in a symbiotic relationship.
Lately, however, much of the conservative movement exists only to advance President Trump. It is no longer distinct. Many of the institutional and outside voices of conservatism have abandoned their distinct credibility to serve as cheerleaders for Trump in ways they would never have dared less than two decades ago when George W. Bush was President. In 2008, conservatives mounted efforts to fight President Bush’s bailouts of General Motors and American financial institutions arguing, among other things, that to bail them out would create moral hazards.
Fast forward just over a decade and many of the same conservatives who stood up to Bush and fought President Obama for sequestration have bent over backward to add multiple more trillions of dollars to the national debt under President Trump. Deficits and debt no longer matter to an intellectual movement that, less than a decade ago, forced the first real spending cuts by holding hostage a debt ceiling increase even as the Republican Party elite excoriated conservative stalwarts.
My personal opinion is that conservatives made this shift because they, like much of the media, have given up seeing themselves as distinct from power and, more troubling, have been infected with postmodernism that makes the chief end of man about the acquisition and preservation of power. American conservatives who once championed the individual and the reduction of the state are, in some quarters, now presuming the fight against the leviathan is lost and conservatives should use the leviathan as the left would. Those who pilloried Fred Barnes, in 2004 an editor of the Weekly Standard, for arguing George W. Bush was a “big government conservative” have now become that oxymoron because they fear Donald Trump is all that stands between them and the left unleashing a civilizational reordering on America.
The reality is that there is nothing permanent in American politics and that shapes my thinking and my opinions. The left will institutionally be as unable to permanently reshape the American landscape as the right has been unable to do. When Donald Trump leaves office in January of next year or 2025, the left will rapidly undo what Trump has done by executive fiat just as Trump undid much of the Obama era. Then a future Republican will undo that. Rise. Wash. Repeat.
I have been disturbed by those on both sides of the political spectrum who have shaped their opinions of COVID-19 based on willful distortions of reality. Both sides now selectively advance facts because both sides believe narrative storytelling is more important than truth. I endeavor, sometimes better than others, to provide complete fact patterns without selective edits as best I can. Truth should matter more than narrative. Encountering difficult truths then force more thought in shaping opinions and public policies.
All of it, however, is supported by hope. That hope comes from my world view. I believe there is a God of all creation who redeemed humanity through a death on a cross and a resurrection. Those who put their faith in Jesus will be saved. Truth, reality, and opinion must be grounded in redemption. I have read the end of the book and I know which side wins. That must force me to recognize we live in a fallen world, force me to offer more grace, and force me to remember eternity matters more than now.
In an increasingly chaotic world filled with half-truths, narrative distortions, and cult-like tribalism, hope is found still in knowing the best days lie ahead, just beyond the eastern sky, in anticipation of the coming son.