Hoping in nothing

David Brooks has an opinion piece out this morning in the New York Times. It’s an excellent summary of the confluence of multiple crises hitting all at once.

There are five gigantic changes happening in America right now. The first is that we are losing the fight against Covid-19. Our behavior doesn’t have anything to do with the reality around us. We just got tired so we’re giving up.

Second, all Americans, but especially white Americans, are undergoing a rapid education on the burdens African-Americans carry every day. This education is continuing, but already public opinion is shifting with astonishing speed.

Third, we’re in the middle of a political realignment. The American public is vehemently rejecting Donald Trump’s Republican Party. The most telling sign is that the party has even given up on itself, a personality cult whose cult leader is over.

Fourth, a quasi-religion is seeking control of America’s cultural institutions. The acolytes of this quasi-religion, Social Justice, hew to a simplifying ideology: History is essentially a power struggle between groups, some of which are oppressors and others of which are oppressed. Viewpoints are not explorations of truth; they are weapons that dominant groups use to maintain their place in the power structure. Words can thus be a form of violence that has to be regulated.

Fifth, we could be on the verge of a prolonged economic depression. State and household budgets are in meltdown, some businesses are failing and many others are on the brink, the continuing health emergency will mean economic activity cannot fully resume.

Very good. I’ve been casting about, trying to sum up everything that’s been happening over the past few months. This about covers it all.

And yet … this article is also very sad. Like all who don’t know Christ, Brooks finds hope in an illusion. For him, it’s better government through the promises of Joe Biden:

Dealing with these problems is going to take government. It’s going to take actual lawmaking, actual budgeting, complex compromises — all the boring, dogged work of government that is more C-SPAN than Instagram.

I know a lot of people aren’t excited about him, but I thank God that Joe Biden is going to be nominated by the Democratic Party.

How sad. I don’t mean that in a nasty, social media sort of way. In that context, comments like this usually mean, “what an IDIOT!” That’s not what I mean.

I actually mean that this is sad; as in depressing. This is what Brooks looks to for a solution. It’s sad not because Brooks’ hope is in Joe Biden. It’s sad because this kind of naive hope is all you have when your framework for reality is anchored in the slime of transient things.

What’s your framework for understanding reality? For understanding this world and yourself? How do you make sense of (1) origins and (2) suffering, (3) what’s your hope to fix you and the world, (4) how will that actually happen, and (5) how will everything end? See my article about why these questions matter now, more than ever, here.

How sad it is if you look at the madness in the world and find hope in a politician. The Church’s job is to explain reality to the world; to explain things as they are to a people who’ve become deluded by the spirit of this mad age. The Christian faith and message has answers for each of the ills Brooks so ably summarizes in his article. It has better answers than faith in Joe Biden. It also has much, much better answers than faith in Donald Trump.

Thank God for that.

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