Republocrat Again

The most postmodern of sins has to be hypocrisy - "being inauthentic," if we want to use quasi-Satre categories. We are quick to recognize it in others and, like most sins, slow - painfully slow - to recognise (HT: Carl on the spelling) it in ourselves.

The opening chapter of Republocrat addresses this issue (among others) in a brief, but substantive, manner. Personally, I think this may be my favorite chapter as I re-read the book. There are many reasons for this, but let me highlight a few.

First, Trueman is a good historian. He seems to be as at home discussing nineteenth century politico-philosophical developments in an emerging British context as he is with John Owen. The mark of good scholarship, I think, is to be able, when writing a book like this, to write clearly and concisely, without tending to oversimplify complex issues.  Since this is Trueman's stated aim, I think this chapter goes a long way in achieving it.

Second, Trueman's chosen themes that he thinks the Left has ignored or downplayed should, again, resonate with any Christian. We should hate oppression. We should fight poverty. And we should do these things for the glory of Christ and not the salving of a mildly-disturbing, post-WWII White Guilt-ridden conscience.

That brings me to the third point. Trueman's discussion of how oppression has moved from (what I would categorize as Biblical) material concerns to nebulous, celebrity-laden feel good causes is exactly right. Reading this chapter reminded me (while simultaneously making me cringe) of the liberal ministers I knew growing up. Most were well-paid, if not outright wealthy. Nothing wrong with well-paid ministers (poverty does NOT equal godliness), provided they are doing their jobs, but I knew these men were scam artists. The male ministers were the ubiquitous bobble-headed "Yes" men, ever nodding to keep the peace and their paychecks. The women, for the most part, were a bland mixture of all that was (and is) wrong with Gloria Steinem, coupled with the unattractive girl who didn't get invited to the prom.

So, the middle-class on the left, it seems to me (on both sides of the pond), can be criticized for being hypocrites. Trueman's scathing critique of the gay rights and "pro-choice" movements should make younger evangelicals really stop and think before being "naughty" and voting Democrat. Why are you doing it?, I want to ask. It seems to me that the impulse is the same, for evangelical and non-evangelical: the only way to be authentic is to be different and then meditate on how cool it is.

I think it is fair to say that when oppression becomes ideological to the core, the popular culture is not far behind to provide the currents downstream to the waterfalls of collapse at the end. In our day, that current is the Lazy River of apathetic tolerance. We will tolerate anything as long as our entertainment-drive is satiated. Trueman helpfully brings this out too.

In the end, I think it is the wretched "middle classness" of the New Left which makes it so unappealing to those of us it should be reaching. However, after reading Trueman's chapter, I was reminded that I have no right to become the Pharisee of Luke 18 and say, "I thank thee Lord that I am not as other men: hypocrites, middle-class Democrats and pro-choice." Rather, a profound sense of urgency emerges: people often run to where they do in politics because they've not been confronted with a full-orbed Gospel.

Once again, this causes us to return to the "tyranny of the normal." It reminds me of the advice one elder gave me when I was chomping at the bit over some perceived ecclesiastical injustice. He said, "Gabe, we all want to be J. Gresham Machen storming the gates of liberalism, or Luther making a stand at Worms. But, most of the time, we're going to be the party at Nicea that probably had little idea what was going on but enough good sense to vote with the Scriptures." We rarely see the full ramifications of our decisions but hopefully we can make Scripturally-informed decisions in the context of living rather boring lives. So Trueman's is a timely word.

But it also reminds us that while politics is fascinating, invigorating (what can get a man or woman out of bed in the morning like a cause which requires creative effort and the feeling of moral superiority?) and exciting, it is the everyday moments where our values are shaped as Christians (and people, I think). The simple act of kindness in the name of Jesus, really seeking to serve that poor couple you see at the grocery store from time to time, seeking to instill in children a sense that there is more to life than material gain - these things are tedious and no one will really blog about them. But as I read this morning, they are noticed by the only one who matters: Jesus (cf. Matt 25:14-30).

So the New Left and the recent landslide victories by the TEA Party-backed surge of anti-Democrat resentment have a whole lot in common. Both are representatively middle-class movements. Both are full of people who feel disenfranchised. Both claim to have the country's best interests at heart. And both, among other things, stir up a lot of excitement from evangelicals. What's the difference between them? Not much, since both have bought into the fundamental presuppositions outlined by Trueman; both have nebulous ideas instead of Biblically-based, clearly-thought out agendas. Thus, both will, I think, miss the main issue: all the ills of society come not from failed policies ultimately, but failed people, with whom we are most conversant, for they are you and me. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can cure middle class hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the isle.