It’s hard to hold back a tsunami of secularism in a single election.
Politically, culturally, economically, this may, in fact, be exactly what some of us saw it as: a paradigm-shifting election. For those of us concerned about freedom as we have understood it, it only gets harder now. I’m not happy about the results of this presidential election, but is it all that surprising when one side marches confidently forward in the arenas of politics, in media, in culture, embracing, celebrating, insisting on, mandating a “new normal”?
The lesson is not to be less conservative. The lesson is not to be found in purging social conservatives. The lesson is in taking a look at how the radicals won: Yes, there was the fear element. There was the devil-you-know element. But there is also the fact that all of what they say seems plausible and even not all that radical, because it has been in our cultural milk. Because while they may obscure some of the details and make it all sound mainstream, at the same time they are bold and confident about the extreme positions they believe in. That’s what we’ve got to be.
We’ve also got to know it and want to tell the world about it. He’s a good man and would have been a good president, but in the 47 percent moment, Mitt Romney did not articulate what you might have hoped. He did succeed at times, but it wasn’t the heart of the campaign, not in any obvious and consistent way. Not in the way we heard about Friday Night Lights and the Challenger flag in the governor’s stump speech. Paul Ryan gave a fantastic speech on poverty, but it was at the end of the campaign.
Even if the campaign had wanted to — and there were moments when it was clear someone wanted to project a confident vision on religious liberty and the flourishing of civil society, for one — they apparently felt they didn’t have the cultural support to lead with those issues — in the country, in the culture, in the media, for sure, in the party, even in the campaign itself. It may very well have been right. People who put their necks out on these things can sometimes find them cut off!
But I am thinking of my late friend Andrew Breitbart this morning: He knew they knew the stakes, and looked at his kids, and knew the stakes too. In all our different roles, we have to live like what we believe to be true really is true. My friend Greg Burke recently talked about the “courage of coherence” and I think that is our most potent tool in winning the future, to borrow a phrase.
I actually think there were some steps in the right direction. But not enough, clearly. And that “not enough” has to do with the fact, again, that politics alone will never be our route to civilizational success. We need to make great art that uplifts the spirit. We need to feed a generation wanting something better, supporting their desires to avoid repeating the preceding generation’s model of family life. We need to teach, inspire, feed. We need to rebuild, starting with the basics of what works and what we believe, telling that story with confidence, enthusiasm, and love.
About the Akin, Mourdock, etc., mess: What a poverty there is in our language about abortion, as was so painfully seen during this election cycle. Forty years after legal abortion, there has been immense suffering as a result. Speaking of the culture: We have to inundate people with compassion. People need to see the pro-life movement for the services of love at its heart. Politics, again, will never do this justice. Counter the “lazy slander” in a big way. It’s a tal challenge, for sure. But again, we can do it with confidence and compassion and knowledge — there is so much misunderstanding and manipulation in the media conversations about this.
We need to know who we are and go forth in confidence. Because that’s how you win people over. Even with the president’s reelection, you can’t miss the fact that it’s not just Romney voters who are longing for more than the current culture offers them.