Sometimes the culture is more friendly, sometimes more hostile, to us. But what we do does not change, nor do the basic needs of the people to whom we minister. It does not matter in any ultimate sense who controls the House or the Senate, who sits in the White House, or what confected micro-identity votes en masse for which candidate. The gospel does not change, nor does the task of the minister who is charged with its proclamation.
The full horror of last week’s presidential election became evident a few days after the result had been called. That was when the first campaign promises were sadly broken: Various ghastly “celebrities” who had pledged to emigrate if Trump were elected now indicated that they would, after all, be staying in the U.S.A. What can one say? Canada’s gain is our loss? No pundit has thus far investigated whether the thought of Miley Cyrus and company leaving the country might have tipped the election the Donald’s way, but it must be worth considering. Were I fortunate enough to be able to combine representation with my very real taxation, the prospect of their departure would certainly have made the Republican candidate a tad more attractive to me.
But the days after the election have confirmed two views of mine, which I have articulated at First Things before. First, there is my view that the nation-state is in a very precarious condition. The proliferation of socially and psychologically constructed identities now seems to take priority over any sense of national identity. The analogy of Brexit with the rise of Trump is not limited to their being unexpected popular reactions against the liberal order. Their aftermaths, too, are similar. There is the refusal of the losers to accept the result. There is the losers’ simplistic deployment of the rhetoric of racism and phobias to demonize the winners. And there is the childishness of those who now claim to feel “unsafe” and who resort to infantile activities such as coloring and leaving post-it notes on therapeutic walls to alleviate their angst. Combine these antics with the criminal rioting, and it is arguable that the things on which a functioning democratic nation-state depends—a shared understanding of the common good, a respect for those with whom one disagrees, and a robust confidence in the rule of law—are perilously tenuous at this moment. Will the nation-state survive, or will it transform (peacefully or violently) into something else? At this juncture it is surely impossible to tell.
My second view relates to how I ended election week.