First Reverberations

First Reverberations


The Election Collection

What just happened?

The following are short reverberations on religion, politics, and culture in the aftermath of an historic US presidential election. Some are sweet. Others more savory. Many have a biteor, if you prefer, a kick.

Not a few of these reverberations concern people of Christian faith. And, at various intersections, some address the literal elephant in the American public square: evangelical Christianity, which raised me.

Pollsters: The Godfather knows where you live.

Photo: From an article appearing on in May 2015. Even the revered Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics predicted a blue wall in the Upper Midwest.

So, Michigan and Wisconsin have become the new Florida? Should we now expect elderly Floridians to winter in the Upper Midwest? That's about as likely as a political pollster saying, "My bad, about all that predictive model stuff."

Read Five Thirty Eight's erudite post-election treatise on why they were less wrong in their predictive analysis than most anyone else. You already know the answer: it's because of their unique model!

Listen to opinion-makers like New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. As November 8 turned into November 9, Douthat got swept up in an audacious game of Monday Morning Quarterback—on a Wednesday. "It was always clear (to me) that there was a right-of-center majority possible w/a populist message and the upper Midwest as its prize," he tweeted, with a self-congratulatory air.

Have they no shame?

Paging Michael Corleone: You are nothing to me now.


Photo: The Telegraph (UK).

Differences and distances between diverse Americans are blatantly being exploited for political gain and power.

Divisions between people are being expanded and entrenched for the sake of social dominance and cultural power.

In times like these, what can a person do but ask: What Would Camus Do?

Albert Camus—who authored The Stranger, a novel which contains an absurd amount of absurdist themes—once wrote (by way of a character in another novel), "Fortunately there is gin, the sole glimmer of light in this darkness." *

Which being interpreted means: I don't always drink gin, but when I do, I drink to differences and distances and divisions.

May authentic and sturdy bridges be built!

* Many conservative Christians (including evangelicals) might appreciate Camus' use of religious language laced with over-the-top apocalyptic imagery. They may or may not appreciate the hard drink.

Can fear and loathing make America great again?

Photo: Newsweek.

It's genuinely a very serious question involving the Other.

Because whatever the appropriate social psychology or astute cultural analysis; whatever the legitimate sense of political estrangement or disenfranchisement; whatever the cynicism of governing leadership and institutions; whatever the realistic part of some fears gone completely hysterical—

Fear and Loathing are not (and never will be) great.

They are degenerative forces. They do not have any real power to create or make anything.

On the other hand, watch them unmake so many things between people.

Is winning the new losing the new normal?

One Christian leader called the interminable campaign season "demoralizing" and "traumatizing" for many Americans. Not to mention, many non-Americans.

It's not unfair, I think, to attribute much of this effect to the mobilizing (read: normalizing) of Fear and Loathing.

For instance, no one will need a fact-checker to remember how Fear and Loathing were front-and-center in Mr. Trump's rhetoric. They were—and, frankly, they still are—lurking behind some of his policy considerations and proposals at home and abroad.

Has the validation of Trumpism by many Americans (and many Christians) who see this as a win actually come at a costly loss?

What if Fear and Loathing are mocking us and snickering at us?

But, can fear and loathing save our souls?

In short, maybe.

When the counter-responses to the election results came, some of them arrived on the wings of salvation.

An acquaintance of mine—Aaron Graham, pastor of District Church in Washington, DC—offered these repentant words:

I'm sorry to my black brothers and sisters who are seeing the KKK celebrating our new president. I'm sorry to Latinos and immigrants who are more fearful now than ever. I'm sorry to my Muslim friends who don't feel like they have a place here because of their faith. I'm sorry to my kids who I teach to not bully or hate people who have this as the example of their president.

My own pastor at All Souls Charlottesville, Winn Collier, prayed these words with tremendous feeling:

I pray for those who are minorities of every sort, for refugees, for those who feel targeted or rejected, those who are afraid. I pray for all of us, people of faith or no, that we would defend the weak and love our neighbor. I pray that we would not reject one another but renew our commitment to our shared human dignity, that we would resist that tenacious pull to hate and fear.

Yet this continues to disturb me: Many Christians, especially from my evangelical tribe, cannot or will not bring themselves to pray these prayers.

Whitney Houston was right (about the children).

Autumn Rites: apple-picking with my children, at Carters Mountain in Charlottesville, circa 2009.

Left to right: Camden, 7; Kate, 4; Jackson 3.

Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Ah, yes, "The Greatest Love of All," covered by the late Whitney Houston in 1985—as simple and true as it is easy to dismiss or deride.

Dear children: It is not unexpected that Fear and Loathing should win the occasional skirmish or battle. These things happen in politics, in culture, and within the stories of nations.

But, dear children, the war for your souls is over.

Love has already won the day, and Love will win the days ahead. A Christian vision simply will not allow us to abandon this positive, constructive, forward image.

My child, inclusive Christ-type love is a peculiar love, with its own politic. It has the power to create or make a distinct culture of people. It writes another kind of story.

The only difficult part is, of course, your soul and mine. Will Love win us over this day?

The Glimmers Gallery: USA v Mexico

Photo: Fox Sports.

Three nights after Election Night, in the heartland of America, there was a sporting circumstance that could not have been politically scripted. The US Men's National Team faced Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, in a World Cup qualifier.

Here is a glimmer of human and social solidarity stretching across the borders of nationalistic fervor.

If you're a soccer fan, you already know that Mexico won the match, 2-1. It was the first time in 15 years the USMNT had lost a World Cup qualifier on home soil. In his post-game interview with reporters, US captain Michael Bradley measured his obvious disappointment, "We have no divine right to win."

Given Mr. Trump's triumph, I like to imagine Bradley speaking directly to all Americans, who, regarding US-Mexico trade relations, are feeling the protectionism; who, regarding global economic affairs, are in the mood for some good old-fashioned American exceptionalism.

We have no divine right to win.

Frost and Tolkien Meet in Scranton

Frost and Tolkien Meet in Scranton

With 3% of Muslim Precincts Reporting

With 3% of Muslim Precincts Reporting