Red, Red Whine

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So this is a time when good writers reach into their tool chest in order to trot out a phrase like “much ballyhooed.” The much ballyhooed red wave has hit the beach. It was not a tsunami that took out the first row of condominiums, but it did take out quite a handful of lawn chairs, coolers, and beach umbrellas. We’ll still take it.

But after we take it, we may have to adjust how we talk about it. This was no tsunami, this was no wave, but more like a red ripple. And in some places, like Florida, it was something more like a slosh. In the meantime, “red, red whine goes to my head, makes me forget . . .”

So allow me to set out the principle first, and then move on to point out some fundamental ways in which our country is broken. After that, what? Put the bottle down.

The Biblical Balance

What is the basic lesson that close observers of politics need to learn? Besides the lesson that summons you to stop being such a close observer of politics? You do know that this would help with that throbbing in your temples, right?

There are two such lessons, and when they are both held together, they result in wisdom. Just one of them taken alone, by which I mean either of them taken alone, creates a lopsided and gimpy approach to civic virtue. And the last thing we need right now is a gimpy approach to any kind of virtue.

The first lesson is that we must not put our trust in princes. The arm of the flesh will fail us. Do not hope in man, who breathes through his nose.

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.”

Psalm 118:9 (KJV)

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”

Psalm 146:3 (KJV)

But the other thing we have to remember is the fact that when the wicked are in positions of authority, the people really do groan under it. The consequences are real; the misery is a thing.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

Proverbs 29:2 (KJV)

So if you put these two truths together, you come to the realization that bad rulers can do an awful lot of damage, and it is a joy to the people when the righteous are in authority. At the very same time, it is hazardous to look to princes as the ones who are supposed to put the righteous in authority, or throw down the wicked from their seats. Put another way, good rulers can be God’s instrument of blessing, but they are never the source of any blessing. We must pray to God for them, and not pray to them for God.

Yet another way of summarizing this would be by quoting the late Gary North, when he said, “Politics fourth!”

Politics is no savior, but politics does need to get saved. Actually, it would be more to the point to say that our detoxing politics needs to spend about three weeks eating soup at the rescue mission, listening to all the testimonies, and then getting saved.

The One Crucial Political Development

As I write this Wednesday morning, the control of both House and Senate is still undetermined, still up in the air. Whatever else that is, it is not a thundering repudiation of Clown World. In the best case scenario, the Democrats lose control of both House and Senate, but if that happens, it will be the result of Republicans barely eking out a victory. This will have good results, for which we should all be grateful, but why is there still a sick feeling in the pit of the stomach, as though we had just eaten a cinder block? And the worst case scenario is that the Democrats keep both houses of Congress, which leaves us having to put with both their evil ideas and their chortling.

Allow me to point to three indicators of bad trouble, which when taken all together add up to some good news. Even in the best case scenario, it is very hard to escape the conclusion that our country is broken. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we might finally be in a position to admit that our country is broken.

First, one indicator of this is the fact that we have a president who is barely functional, and yet we all just go on pretending. And still, with that cautionary tale as a backdrop, the people of Pennsylvania just elected someone as obviously IMPAIRED as Fetterman. It slowly becomes clear that there are numerous places in the country where the Democrats could nominate and run the cadaver of some homeless guy and still get 40% of the vote. Those are not conditions which inspire confidence. They are not circumstances under which we can agree to disagree, or wait patiently for the thing to right itself. Our public life is obviously diseased.

Second, I would point to the all-in partisan reaction to election snafus and irregularities. On the assumption that the vote in Maricopa two years ago was totally legit, which I still do not think, but work with me, the fact that twenty percent of their machines went on the fritz right away this time, caused a whole bunch of people in the country to roll their millions of eyes. The individual responsible for the election running smoothly is the Democrat running for governor in one of the contested elections, and as they seek to “address the problem,” she has not recused herself. Seriously? We are at the point where she could volunteer to take all the ballots to her lake cabin and count them herself over the weekend, and she would have defenders writing think pieces for The Washington Post. The point here is that nobody appears to care how anything looks. They care about winning, and are quite prepared to brazen out whatever it is. But it is possible to gain power and forfeit legitimacy at the same time, which leads to my third point.

So this third point has to do with this question of trust and legitimacy. The second biggest contribution to our political life that Donald Trump made during his tenure in office—the first being the overturning of Roe—was simply the fact that his personality—all of it—was catnip to the left. If he was involved, they simply could not contain themselves. I do not point to this as a virtue in Trump, but rather as simply a characteristic of Trump. He made a bunch of people, who are not supposed to be crazy, act crazy. Generals, FBI directors, spies, congressmen, media moguls, conservative leaders, you name it—Respectable World went barking mad, and did so in a way that could not be hushed up. Too many of us saw. Too many of us now know that Respectable World is nothing of the kind.

Because of Trump’s mere existence at the White House, they all undertook a massive effort that resulted in discrediting and de-legitimizing the Establishment, of which they were the chief denizens, and, boy howdy, did they succeed. I have pointed to this smoking crater in the middle of our public life before. Name one institution that has retained its integrity and credibility. Name one institution that has the capacity to speak above the chaotic fray.

While we are on the subject of Trump, I should say one more thing in passing. Trump has been teasing a big announcement that he is about to make, and speculation has been that he is going to announce his candidacy for 2024. And if this had been the anticipated red tsunami, I think he really would have. But now . . . I don’t know. Desantis can point to an actual red wave in Florida, and Trump can’t really point to a national one. So I think this is messier than he was anticipating. But whatever he does, the catnip component remains a player.

Repentance and Reformation

So remember the two principles outlined above. The people really do suffer when ruled by miscreants. And, following hard on the first principle, mortal men in their own name, no matter how much common sense they might have, cannot save us from the miscreants. That is because the death wish that animates the Left is a spiritual power, it is a demon, and cannot be exorcised by stupidity or intelligence, ignorance or knowledge, bad intentions or good.

If you are expecting the God, Jesus, Bible answer at this point, you are technically correct. Instead of looking to the next election, we need to be praying and looking for the next reformation and revival. But before looking for the April of reformation, we need to go through the November of repentance. And that’s the hard part of all these reformations—we have to let go of things we don’t want to let go of.

If we want unbelievers to repent of their sin, the first thing believers should do is show them how. Judgment should begin with the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17). How can we expect them to let go of their sins when we refuse to let go of ours? And more to the pinch point, evangelicals need to learn how to repent of things that we have serenely assumed to be our virtues.

We must repent of our etiolated gospel-centeredness. We need to repent of calling ourselves Jesus-followers instead of Christians. We need to repent of Instagraming our devotional times. We have to repent of our “Jesus is our girl friend” worship songs. We must repent of all our Jesus junk stores. We have to repent of our R2K schizophrenia. We need to repent of the anemic condition of our deracinated seminaries. We need to repent of still caring what Christianity Today prints. We must repent of caring more about our own reputations and turf concerns than we do about the condition of the kingdom at large—we sin like Hezekiah did . . . “peace and safety in my time.” We must repent of all our inverse John the Baptist moves—”they might decrease so that I might increase.” We must repent of caring more about not being publicly associated with worldview thinkers who make us feel extreme than we care about actually understanding the truth as the Word reveals it.

We must repent of healing the wound of my people lightly (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). The wound is festering, and all we will do is dab a damp washcloth around the periphery of it.

We must repent of thinking that reformation is a matter of transplanting a few bushes out in our ecclesiastical front yard when it is more a matter of getting certain tectonic plates to shift, a hundred miles below that front yard. We think in this superficial way because we believe we know how to transplant a bush (“there, fixed it!”), while only God can shake the earth. But when God shakes things up (Heb. 12:27), He does it so that the things that cannot be shaken might remain, and that leaves us feeling unsettled and puny. We no like.

But that’s all right. Our likes and dislikes are among the things that can be shaken. And are being shaken, as we speak.

More NQN Swag

A big part of the NQN season, apart from the silver bells and mistletoe (is that joke getting old?) is our practice of giving away free stuff. So at the bottom of every NQN post, as in, like right here, keep your eyes peeled for the current offers, whatever they might be. Please note that these are different from Week One.

1. This week’s links to free Kindles are Joy at the End of the Tether and Radiant (Amazon affiliate links).

2. This November, anyone can get one free month of Canon+ with code NQNQ. This only works for new subscribers—sorry, it doesn’t work for existing or annual subscriptions. We have a lot of postmill work to do yet. This is not our rule, but rather that of our digital masters. But if you do this, you will be able to watch my new documentary over Thanksgiving, and to do so for free. The name of the doc is “How to Save the World (in Eleven *Simple Steps).”

3. This November, current subscribers can give a year’s subscription of Canon+ for just fifty bucks—$49.99 instead of $95.88. That way you can get that pastor, friend, or enemy the Canon+ content they’ve been so wishing for.

4. And in addition to all of that, from my quaint little Mablog Shoppe, for those same days (Nov. 7-12), my little book on the meaning of Christmas presents, entitled A Brief Theology of Christmas Presents. For that, just click below.