If I might make an aside into politics, I feel the need to say something: I’m not entirely sure what’s going on these days. This is not for lack of trying.
I used to be extraordinarily good at predicting the future. This isn’t to claim any sort of psychic ability — we both know that’s not the case — but I certainly had a talent for understanding politics to the point of being able to predict pretty well the broad strokes years ahead of me, with reasonable accuracy on the particulars. Politics was my forte, my hobby, my passion. I loved to count electoral votes and look at demographic blocs. I thrilled to contemplate ideology colliding with reality and the resulting fallout at the ballot box. I followed the Veepstakes in 2008 with an almost obsessive fervor, and dammit if I didn’t call it.
Some of my accurate predictions?
- The Bush-Kerry brawl in 2004 and its outcome;
- Kerry’s selection of John Edwards as his running mate (I thought the Post’s announcement of Gephardt was completely incoherent);
- the results of the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial race (and the 2009, too) and the 2006 Senate race pretty far in advance;
- the ascendancy of Barack Obama (which I followed with great interest);
- the necessity of a McCain victory in the Republican primaries (although I was doubtful as to his chances in both the primaries and the general);
- and most bizarrely, the selection of Sarah Palin as his VP.
All of these are things that could have been seen by anybody paying attention in the right spots, so I’m not claiming particular foresight. But the last year has been nothing like I predicted it.
For one, while I anticipated opposition to Obama’s policies by the GOP, and even expected some fracturing within the Party as it tried to ply a course that would satisfy its base at the same time it tried to reinvent itself to remain competitive, I did not, in a million years, see the Tea Party coming. Oh, when it started I could recognize its influence, but the strange beast itself remained far off my radar screen. This sort of active, frustrated populism seemed like a thing of the past, not likely to rear its head again. And while I predicted a prominent career for former Governor Palin, her decision to resign from office was a blow to the head. What was she doing? Why wasn’t she parlaying her popularity into a Senate run against Lisa Murkowski? What in holy hell was going on? Instead, she pens a memoir and tours the country and seizes what reins there are of this newfangled populist movement.
I am, then, I suppose, no prognosticator among prognosticators, and this humbled diviner has been trying to make sense of the Tea Party for some time. Because I still don’t really get it, and when I don’t understand something, it frustrates and worries me. What is it about this gaggle of angry patriots that so rankles and confuses? I suppose it’s that it’s a movement built on heat. It’s a frustrated uprising, a could and boldly incoherent “No!” to the excesses of the administration. It’s not entirely composed of the fringe birther movement — or adherents to any other conspiracy theory — but still seems directed by fear as the primary mover. Again and again I hear it — “I am afraid for my children. I don’t want to think of the future they’ll have to face. I’m scared.” Again and again and again — “I’m scared.” Fear is a powerful thing.
This isn’t to knock fear as a bad thing. It makes us cautious. Fear can certainly help save lives and avert disaster. But it’s also entirely reactive. It’s not a positive thing; it proposes nothing but doom, and offers nothing but death.
Where, in any of this, is faith? I don’t mean belief — I mean honest trust in God. So much is predicated on the insistence that this is destroying America, and that that would be a catastrophe and tragedy the likes of which the world cannot conceive. But I have news: Heaven and Earth and the United States will all pass away, but Christ’s words will never pass away. The things of the world are just that — worldly. The are temporary, ephemeral, and will ultimately fail. Obama could turn out to be the return of Stalin, and that wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference when it came down to what it means to be a Christian. Neither death nor life, neither socialism nor illegal immigration, neither hurricanes or earthquakes or secret police can keep us from the love of God.
And yet, this movement — which is so rooted, as it were, in Christian heritage — is bereft of Christian thought. In none of it do I see the healthy, holy love of enemy or disinterest in earthly things which is supposed to characterize the believer. Instead, it’s viciousness and vitriol and panic.
Do your worst, world. The Church will still survive. Don’t you know the gates of hell shall never overcome it?