Last night I watched Marco Rubio announce his candidacy for the presidency, and as far as such speeches go, I thought he did a very good job. I also observed that those who want him to go far thought he did a better job than he actually did, but still, I thought it was a credit-worthy launch. I am sure that I will have more to say about Rubio as the campaign unfolds, but for the present I just want to take his marked emphasis on the American dream to make a few observations of my own.
We are well beyond the ability of course corrections to help us. What is needed is a volte-face, and such an abrupt turnaround is not really a political technique. It will be very much like the town drunk at the tent meeting revival, and not very much like a refined woman deciding not to have cheesecake for dessert at the upscale bistro.
When America repents we will see several different kinds of repentance. I’ve written about the first many times before. Repentance means a change of mind before God, and that means simple abandonment of certain practices that God finds to be detestable. “And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh” (Eze. 11:18–19). We will be done with chopping babies into pieces, we will turn away from homosexual practices with loathing, and we will reject the open-bar-at-the-Fed approach to bankrupting our great-great-grandchildren. In these instances, and many others like them, repentance looks like turning away from vice as vice.
Repentance will also need to return to a proper foundation for our remaining albeit tattered virtues. A number of aspects of our Puritan founding are still with us, and still very much part of the American character. They are secularized, deracinated virtues, but they are still observable. We still have these characteristics — only without Jesus. Is a very bad deal to have such things without Jesus, but they are still admirable in their way, as far as they go. That isn’t very far because it does not profit a man to gain the whole world but still lose his soul. Still less does it profit a man — or nation — to not lose all of the world after having lost his soul.
To return to the image of the town drunk – he used to teach English literature at the University, and he still remembers a lot about the books he used to read. If you catch him in the morning, you can sit down with him on the park bench in a spot of sun and have quite a nice conversation. The conversation can be real and engaging, but that doesn’t change how sad it all is.
So with all such appropriate qualifications being made, America is still Calvinist, still postmillennial, and still entrepreneurial in a Deuteronomic sense. Some foundational aspects of each are still operative in our national DNA. I hope to write more about each as the opportunities present themselves.