A reader emailed to ask, "An honest question: how do you balance opinion vs. hope. As a pastor I always emphasize hope (though admittedly I am offering Christ) yet I also clearly emphasize reality. ... Yet the question remains: where does responsibility lie with those who speak publicly & are heard?"
Whether writing my daily emails, newspaper columns or the five hours a day of radio I do, I try to start with reality. A frustration of mine for years has been the media treating the conservative movement and Republican Party as the same. They are, in my mind, distinct entities that live in a symbiotic relationship.
Lately, however, much of the conservative movement exists only to advance President Donald Trump. It is no longer distinct. Many of the institutional and outside voices of conservatism have abandoned their distinct credibility to serve as cheerleaders for Trump in ways they would never have dared less than two decades ago when George W. Bush was president. In 2008, conservatives mounted efforts to fight Bush's bailouts of General Motors and American financial institutions, arguing, among other things, that bailing them out would create moral hazards.
Fast-forward just over a decade and many of the same conservatives who stood up to Bush and fought President Barack Obama for sequestration have bent over backward to add multiple more trillions of dollars to the national debt under Trump. Deficits and debt no longer matter to an intellectual movement that, less than a decade ago, forced the first real spending cuts by holding hostage a debt ceiling increase.
My personal opinion is that conservatives made this shift because they, like much of the media, have given up seeing themselves as distinct from power and, more troubling, have been infected with a postmodernism that makes the chief end of man about the acquisition and preservation of power. American conservatives who once championed the individual and the reduction of the state are, in some quarters, now presuming that the fight against the leviathan is lost and that conservatives should use the leviathan as the left would. Those who pilloried Fred Barnes, an editor of The Weekly Standard, in 2004 for arguing George W. Bush was a "big-government conservative" have now become that oxymoron; they fear Trump is all that stands between them and the left unleashing a civilizational reordering on America.
The reality is that there is nothing permanent in American politics, and that shapes my thinking and my opinions. The left will institutionally be as unable to permanently reshape the American landscape as the right has been unable to do. When Trump leaves office in January of next year or in 2025, the left will rapidly undo what Trump has done by executive fiat, just as Trump undid much from the Obama era. Then a future Republican will undo that. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
I have been disturbed by those on both sides of the political spectrum who have shaped their opinions of COVID-19 based on willful distortions of reality. Both sides now selectively advance facts because both sides believe narrative storytelling is more important than truth. I endeavor, sometimes better than others, to provide complete fact patterns without selective edits. Truth should matter more than narrative. Encountering difficult truths forces more thought in shaping opinions and public policies.
All of it, however, is supported by hope. That hope comes from my worldview. I believe there is a God of all creation who redeemed humanity through a death on a cross and a resurrection. Those who put their faith in Jesus will be saved. Truth, reality and opinion must be grounded in redemption. I have read the end of the book, and I know which side wins. That must force me to recognize we live in a fallen world; it must force me to offer more grace; it must force me to remember eternity matters more than now.
In an increasingly chaotic world filled with half-truths, narrative distortions and cultlike tribalism, hope is found still in knowing the best days lie ahead, just beyond the eastern sky, in anticipation of the coming son.