Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Dropping the Secular Pretense

“If secular America does not die, then America will die. If we do not drop the secular pretense with loathing then it is inevitable that God will drop us. With loathing.”
— Doug Wilson

Hey, Doug, somebody’s trying. The “secular pretense” has officially been dropped. In fact, I can’t recall a world leader who invoked the name of God more deliberately or with greater consistency than President Donald Trump in the months since his inauguration.

You can like him, you can hate him, or you can ignore him. You can claim he’s pandering to evangelicals, and you might even be right. But he’s definitely doing something President Obama didn’t.

A short and not remotely comprehensive list of President Trump’s “God” references since January (he’s now doing it at least once in almost every major speech):
  • “I’ve always felt the need to pray.”
  • “Justice Gorsuch, I again congratulate you and your entire family, and I wish God’s blessings on your amazing journey ahead.”
  • “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
  • “We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.”
  • “We all are made by the same God.”
  • “We all are equal  —  totally equal in the eyes of almighty God, we’re equal.”
  • “America will thrive, as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God.”
  • “The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
You can feel free to debate his theology. I do. Yes, it’s mostly pro forma and vague. Yes, cynics will say the president is just playing to his base. Could be. I probably would in his shoes. Moreover, you can argue Trump’s newfound emphasis on the spiritual is more rhetoric than conviction. That may be so. But it surely reflects a deliberate policy. Policy is not the domain of speechwriters.

No matter. Whether or not Donald Trump has a personal relationship with the God of Heaven, when the President of the United States mentions that same God freely and regularly rather than genuflecting to Allah or to generic religiosity, it widens the window of opportunity in public discourse for those who do have that relationship to share their faith freely.

Now, some will argue that we Christians are more effective at doing our job when persecuted and culturally pilloried. Others will argue that freedom to share Christ without fear of persecution is a welcome and laudable goal.

Your mileage will vary. I simply point this out because it is what it is, and it’s definitely happening. At the top of the American political food chain, secular pretense is no longer the order of the day.

As Milton Friedman memorably put it: “The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.”

We may be part way there.

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