First, the definitions. Trump, well, you know that one. NFTs stands for “Non-Fungible Tokens,”which is a cryptographic asset embedded in a block chain, meaning that it has a distinct digital “signature,” and cannot be duplicated, a collectible made out of ones and zeros. The #MajorAnnouncement that Trump was going to make last week turned out to be NFT playing cards of Trump himself (in the role of superhero). Which, incidentally, have sold out already. And Fremdschämen is a German word for the embarrassment you feel for someone else who really ought to be embarrassed for himself, but somehow mysteriously isn’t. I just imagine myself trying to explain this phenomenon—superhero playing cards of a politician—to Thomas Jefferson, and my forehead gets hot.
Okay, just plain weird.
But of course if I needed to explain the sinkhole of venality and corruption that is our respectable political establishment today, against which Trumpism is the inchoate plaint, I wouldn’t need to explain anything. Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Madison and all the other Founders already knew exactly what that kind of diseased thing was, as they had seen plenty of examples of it in their day. They tried to establish a form of government that would hold that kind of thing off, something that would keep mendacious pirates from entering public service. Unsuccessfully, as it turns out.
So if you ask me at the outset what my attitude toward this particular foolishness is, I begin by registering the fact—because these cards are not ironic meme jokes, but rather a display of a rather fruity dear-leader mentality—that they are disturbing and mortifying in the fullest Fremdschämen sense. I trust that is plain enough.
I also trust that it is plain that while I am going to begin by talking a bit about politics, I am not going to end there. The current state of our political affairs would be the splotches on our skin that caught the doctor’s attention. But the problem those splotches indicate, and what the doctor is actually worried about, is a fatal condition that lies close to the heart. The symptoms are merely the symptoms.
But First Imagine . . .
This is the point where the never-Trump tut-tutters come in, chortling, in order to say something like this: “We saw this coming. We called it beforehand. Imagine not being able to see that Hillary was right. These people really are a basket of deplorables. This is not serious statesmanship. This is an opium dream mash-up of Peronist populism, Hillbilly Elegy goes to Washington, and Marvel comics. We are surprised you guys haven’t had humiliation-induced heart failure by this point.”
What reply can be made to such a taunt? There is one, you know. There are millions of people who have voted for Trump in the past, and who would do so again depending, who are not participants in any of these current shenanigans. And so what are they thinking?
Imagine being part of a ruling caste that was so blinded by the glare of their own policy prescriptions—a shine based on nothing more than self-congratulation—that they could not see the shambolic wreckage that their sort of governance had accomplished over the course of decades. Imagine not being tired of endless wars, not being able to see the tens of millions of babies slaughtered, not being repulsed and disgusted with drag queen story hours, not being outraged by double mastectomies performed on healthy girls, not being exhausted by the realization that when you go into Arby’s and stare at the menu board you are confronted with nothing but racist options, not being able to understand anything Rand Paul says about the federal debt, and not being able to comprehend that same sex mirage is the codification of something that is loathsome to God. Imagine not being able to understand that for millions of sane people, another Trump administration would be an upgrade.
The shine of self-congratulation was pretty bright when all of this started, but it was battery-powered, and the manufacturer of these particular batteries has recently filed Chapter 11. Turns out that those self-congratulation batteries contributed to climate change. Now the dim glow of the virtue signals from this arbitrary business are almost brown. The only thing that is still bright is a dedication to uplift and other things that rhyme with grift.
In short, imagine turning America into the kind of country that God hates, and then being proud of yourself.
“For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: The prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: And he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: And he saith, I am not learned.”
Isaiah 29:10–12 (KJV)
But also notice that I used the word upgrade, and not solution. Trump is no solution. He would be an upgrade the same way it would be an upgrade to get out of solitary confinement, and back into Cell Block E with all the boys.
So enough with the politics. Let’s talk about what matters.
When confronted with an unfamiliar phrase like Christian nationalism, it is reasonable to have questions. It is reasonable to want to read the book and to evaluate the arguments and proposals. It is healthy to ask probing questions. But it is also necessarily to remember that the chief obstacle in the thinking of many knee jerk opponents among conservatives is that they want a solution to clown world that does not entail repentance.
They have taken Niebuhr’s jab, and turned it into something of a mission statement. “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”
But lawless nations are in need of a Legislator. Nations in need of salvation are also nations in need of a Savior. We have done more than paint ourselves into a corner. We have wandered into a labyrinth blindfolded, groped our way to the very back of it, and then painted ourselves into that corner.
What this means is that we are at the end of ourselves. We are the prodigal son, staring at the pig food, wondering why it looks so good to us now. Our thoughts have turned back to our father’s house, where even the hired men have bread and enough, and the first thought of returning in a spirit of repentance occurs to us. But one of our tavern buddies, hired to tend the pigs with us, cautions us against being rash. “Remember that older brother of yours—pretty abusive. And your father? Quite the patriarchalist, you said.”
Yeah. But I said that when I was being a moral idiot.
Two Simple Words
The message to America from every pulpit needs to be repent and believe. But repent of what? Believe in what?
Let’s start with repentance. There are a host of sins and crimes that we have committed, each one a branch laden down with rancid fruit. There is the abortion branch. There is sexual revolution branch. There is the feminism branch. There is the pornography branch. There is the nation-building branch. There is fiat money branch. There is the endless wars branch.
We have all these branches, each bearing fruit in its season, but what is the trunk? The trunk is something we call secularism, but a more biblical name for it is godlessness. And yet a host of conservative thinkers still think of the word secularism as though it were not the height of a demented fever dream.
“Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.”
Psalm 36:1 (ESV)
We have thought, in our impudent folly, that we were capable of defining and maintaining a moral and just society without reference to God. In the annals of farcical tragedies, there has not been this big a joke in quite some time. We have thought that we could generate a purpose for life from within our own immanent frame of reference. We have thought that we could just stand in the laundry basket and carry ourselves upstairs.
Unless the definition of sin comes from outside the world, there is no such thing as sin. There can be such a thing as getting in trouble with whatever jitney leader currently controls the dungeons and torture chambers, but there is no such thing as sin. You would certainly feel pain, but there would be no ultimate reason to feel bad. If the definition of right and wrong does not come from the realms of endless day, then whatever it might be is just your opinion.
All law reflects the character of the lawgiver. If God is the lawgiver, He is immutable and He is good. The laws that are based on His nature and character are therefore among the permanent things. Laws based on His character would themselves be unchanging, and they would be good. You therefore would not be at liberty to chop babies into bits and sell the pieces. You would not have porn streamed into every hotel room in America, gunking up the world. You would not have a medical profession (doctors!) so ravenous for money that they would cut up healthy boys and girls for money, that they would pimp for the lockdown-mongers, that they would deny essential surgeries to vaccine “deniers,” and so on.
The second part of this is that we must believe in God. We must return to God. We have an obligation to repent and come back to God. And by God, I do not mean some generic Western Family off-brand deity, the religio-place-holder that many conservatives are generally comfortable with. That is the God who is always ready to “bless America,” the kind of invocation that the Supreme Court might find unobjectionable on the grounds that nobody means anything particularly theological by it. This is the sort of God who blesses America, along with anybody who sneezes in your vicinity.
No, I am talking about the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one to whom we must repent. He is the one we have offended. He is the one who looks on us as a grimy, ungrateful, misbegotten, and very stupid nation. That means we must turn back to Him. He is the true and living God, and we really need to stop treating Him as the God of the back room—someone who is willing to deliver us from our sin and folly on the sly.
If only He would grant us a return to common sense, but done in such a way that we need not render any public thanks to Him! That way we could continue to pretend that secularist pluralism was a viable option. Some of us could of course thank the true Deliverer sotto voce just before we asked him to retire to the back room again. Our public handlers would be quite occupied with their plans for organizing a festival honoring the goddess of the lowest common denominator—the one that they credit for this great deliverance. True believers would know better, deep down in their hearts. True believers, I say, but not really courageous ones.
No. It really is Christ or chaos. If you want to see an end to the chaos, then repent of your secularism. Repent of your overt secularism and your residual secularism. Ask your pastor to preach a sermon or two on the idolatry of pluralist secularism. After all, pluralism is just the political name for what in theology is called polytheism. And Christians are not polytheists, or at least they didn’t used to be. The Christians of the future won’t be, at any rate.