Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

A word about the futility of politics in the West, on election Tuesday in America

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 07, 2016

Foster parents in the United Kingdom have been refused permission to adopt their foster children because they do not think placement of children with same-sex couples is a good idea. It is difficult to conceive of a better example of the secular regulatory State at work.

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As little as a generation ago, not only would married couples have uniformly consisted of one man and one woman, but they would almost certainly also have been considered unfit for adoption if they expressed the viewpoint that it was perfectly okay for a child to have two mommies or two daddies instead of a mother and father. But since the secular regulatory State is now all-powerful, moral expectations change overnight, and anyone who disagrees with the State’s point of view—no matter how novel it may be—is considered unfit.

This year in the United States, we have been pushing such trends to new depths. After all, the UK adoption script could have been written by Hillary Clinton. Few situations demonstrate so clearly how easily we can all be dropped into Clinton’s capacious “basket of deplorables”. And here we see also one of the Big Lies of our time—the myth that Christian believers are characterized by a fear of people who are “not like themselves”. In fact, nobody turns on people who are “not like themselves” more quickly than do our secular cultural elites.

They are turning on us. We are drawing perilously close to the point at which those with “unreconstructed” social views must be considered enemies of the State. Western politics proceeds always now under the name of “enlightenment”. This is surprisingly easy because the dominant culture has the power to describe its own prejudices as high truths, while dismissing truth (by which I mean the mind’s correspondence with reality) as nothing but a prejudice—and a deplorable prejudice at that.

The Don and Hil Show

One of the reasons Donald Trump has gained such improbable traction in the American presidential race is that he seems to be able to stand our contemporary political correctness on its ugly head. A great many people who have almost no voice in anything are fed up with being considered dull-witted freaks whose needs, values and ideas are routinely dismissed. The danger of Trump, of course, is that while he has a strong record of being incredibly obnoxious (which is entertaining when directed at our paragons of political enlightenment), he has very little history of being obnoxious in good causes.

On the one hand, it is Clinton’s class which has been writing the increasingly anti-Christian script of the past generation or two, and almost nobody in any country around the world has found it easy to deviate from that script. Even American Republicans are carefully taught not to deviate from the script any more than absolutely necessary to gain traction, which is why they typically gain so little of it. It is tempting, under these conditions, to portray Donald Trump—be he ever so obnoxious—as the last great hope of mankind.

Just as I predicted in my opening salvo for the Presidential campaign season last January (Politics is dead: This year, avoid the quadrennial silliness), a motley crew of otherwise decent Christians have now twisted themselves into believing that Donald Trump is a clear way forward—that we must “get on board”, as one of my critics put it, “or get out of the way.” Such foolishness arises from our desperation to have a political solution—our desperation to have a horse in the race so that we don’t “miss out”.

It is inexpressibly sad that, every four years, such persons condemn those who refuse to get on board. Anyone remotely in touch with reality knows that it is at best unlikely that Donald Trump is a solution to anything. There is probably no way to predict whether voting for a third-party candidate will do more for the common good in the long run than voting for Trump, or not voting at all. On the other hand, Trump has crafted campaign promises to appeal to those of us who feel disenfranchised. There is always a one percent chance that a candidate will keep at least some promises.

In any case, no well-formed Christian can morally vote for Hillary Clinton, who (in addition to her own manifest incompetence) so perfectly represents our dominant culture’s rebellion against not only Christ but the natural law. The truth is that we have no good options.

Why not?

But it is important to begin to understand why we have no good options. Here is how I expressed it in that opening essay:

The broad cultural consensus that man must stand in the place of God—which makes human government the sole determinant of value—has put effective politics beyond the reach of anyone who sees reality whole. The fight is inherently spiritual, and I hope it is now impossible to deny that the fundamental crisis of Western civilization is indeed spiritual in nature. It cannot be solved by the secular State, which denies any source of meaning beyond itself. It cannot be solved by our cultural elites, because they are always willing to trade a deep engagement with reality for whatever will ensure their power and comfort.

Do we know the typical historical solution to such spiritual blindness? It is massive material disaster. When reality is ignored, everything deteriorates. And when things get so bad that the elites themselves have all their props knocked out from under them, a society can begin to think fruitfully about God again. But surely all of us know how terribly easy it is to let reality slide; if that were not so, we would not continue to hope, against all odds, in contemporary politics. Wherever there is political excitement, we will find fools very thick on the ground. And while we cannot avoid being fools at times, we need to try a good deal harder not to remain fools to the very end.

The most important political lesson, year after year, decade after decade, and century after century is simply this: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help” (Ps 146:3). Bear in mind the common good and vote, or not, in accordance with a genuinely Christian analysis of its often uncertain demands. We have God’s blessing for that, even though we may at times find the common good difficult to discern. But avoid political delirium, for that is idolatry.

Here is a warning repeated no fewer than five times in the New Testament (Mathew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:7): The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. The pretensions of secular politics consistently amount to nothing for one extraordinarily simple reason. Secular politics rejects the cornerstone. Repeat after me: Only Christ saves.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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