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Exorcist-In-Chief (Part I): The Wrong Side Of History

“Not infrequently in our age we hear young people say something wise; if one listens carefully, he will be sure to hear that it is a youth speaking, for a youth fails to realize (so enthusiastic is he!) what the wise man does not fail to realize, that everything he says concerns himself (so egotistic is he!). Unlike the wise man, who understands everything as implied, the young man makes the demand and does not understand himself as implied, hardly anyone for that matter – such are the demands he makes…Of course, he certainly does speak in the name of the age concerning the demands of the times, but this is indeed precisely the contradiction that ought to put a halt to the incredible cruelty of the young, for no one, no fictional pirate captain, has ever been as cruel as the demands of the times in the mouth of the young.”

-Kierkegaard, Two Ages, p.9

My mouth was swollen shut by the dryness that had entered into my tongue from an inability to keep my jaw off of the floor. Lauren and I had settled in to live stream MSNBC and let Chuck Todd guide us through one of the most stupefying election nights in recent memory when the lack of moisture to the hole in my face left me unable to really voice what I was processing, which took some time and many hours away from social media in arguments and fury and of course, in praying. Even though I much preferred Trump over Hillary, I voted for neither candidate [1].

Hillary had basically declared herself the winner, and who could blame her? The lack of a concession speech on the night of the election led many to believe that perhaps she had not even prepared one! And why would she? We all thought she would win, but whenever the last wave of Wikileaks emails revealed the Clinton Foundation was in bed with groups in Saudi Arabia directly responsible for the creation and continuance of extremists groups in the middle east – and the media didn’t seem to really care – it caused me to do some extreme soul searching the week before the 8th.

Yes, I very nearly voted for Donald Trump. I was so sick of the name-calling from the Left and the Neo-Marxists who had clearly used their fresh victory in the culture, and in the universities, to abandon all argument and persuasion to simply demolish the individual for the sake of their pre-destined group affiliation. First the first time, the reality of the utter corruption and lies from the Clintons were not only believed by my friends on the “left,” but brazenly eaten like cattle, leaving me ill. Even the self-proclaimed beacon of truth, Michael Moore, cheered on Hillary during the night, which unwittingly gave off the impression of a beached whale gasping its last few breaths before extinction.

I myself hate even the smell of an over-generalization. But it seems there are many who are willing to justify violence being done by “protestors” from upset twitter posts of kids who had been called names at school by apparent Trump-supporters. This justification is what we call Ideology. Or, another way of putting it is whatever you destroy “in the name of.”

What is this ideology?

“PC-culture” is what they call it. It is the attempt of those who now have cultural power to shove their ideology down our eager-to-please voice. Do not be deceived: It is not the attempt to be courteous to those who know nothing of your lived experience. You see, most people really do want to be considerate. I am one of them. But something has changed, and the election of Donald Trump is a proverbial foot in the closing of the cultural door for a lot of people who feel left out of the care and concern of their elected representatives. And the result was an exorcism on a national scale. Democrats were voting for Trump, and Republicans were voting for Clinton. It was madness.

Watching the pundits lose the election to Trump on the night of the 8th was bizarre as many of them either found themselves in tears – completely destroying any hint of leftover journalistic integrity – or they simultaneously found themselves in an Augustinian mode of confession. It was like watching a boy eat ice cream from one end of the park to the other, completely unaware of the crap he has stuck to his pants leaving him the last person to find out.

Chuck Todd, Dan Rather, and many other classic commentators actually gave credibility to the critique of those who have found themselves on the margins of the national conversation and then admitted that they also are to blame for this election, for not listening to the people. It was more than good television, it was sheer spectacle, and I was unable to look away.

The humility demonstrated by the pundits didn’t transfer to further reflection in the young. Many took to their phones, took to the streets, and began protesting the election of the man they hate more than sexually transmitted diseases. In other words, if Obama’s election in 2008 triggered the dionysian cry of the millennial, the election of Trump manifested its very opposite: violence (on both left and right), online threats of suicide, and viral manipulation of those who want to generate real chaos, even at the expense of the truth [2].

That is why the words of Kierkegaard [3] nearly 100 years ago hit home for me today: we had spent the last 8 years as if we were the recipients of an Age in which the complete disregard of the former generation was not only appropriate but necessary. “Forward motion!” they cred, “We’ve got today to make tomorrow!” So, when a generation who told everyone it was all about them didn’t get what they wanted, they did what every person with a lot of power and little to no argument does: burn, pillage, and make demands without any consideration of the other person.

Just one pass at the videos of students setting up their living quarters in the halls of college presidents, refusing to talk to the white man in charge because what possibly could he say (?), he is white and hence part of the repressive regime we will give no time to. “We the oppressed,” they usually say, “have a secret wisdom that you, a straight white male, are incapable of possessing. Therefore, our demands must be met.”

Does this sound like a group that a whole country would vote against? Of course, they are. And we did. And now they seem incapable of accepting ideological defeat, so why bother with anything else. Ideologues rarely ever accept defeat. They usually accept suicide.

“Man has killed God and we are his prophets!”

It is the one who is hell-bent on making history that I have the least respect for. Because it is most often that person in society who finds himself most capable at ruling over others. And any man or woman who finds themselves most capable of ruling should check to see which ideology has already justified their violence. So when we reduce a person down to group membership, we readily destroy that person for the sake of making a name in our age. Well, if not joining up with these mob intellectuals means I am on the wrong side of history then so be it!

“We do not seem to have the patience to learn what it is to be human and to renounce the inhuman by letting ourselves be guided in self-concern, by fervently and admiringly deriving pleasure from the older person when he remains true to himself, by being built up by faithful service of fifty years, by comprehending slowly…”

-Kierkegaard, p. 11

I want to be on the wrong side of history. I want to know when it is time to act quickly, and when it is time to comprehend slowly.

And by “history” I mean historical consensus usually determined by current interpretation incapable of seeing how history will actually be seen. And by “wrong side” I mean on the wrong side of those who do not buy into the myth of progress. By “side” people mean the mob; often incapable of seeing the potential for great evil within all of its virtue signaling and self-righteous grandstanding. And by “myth” I mean the tide that pushes humanity against the rocks of reality. By “reality” I mean “tolerance” and “secularism.” And it is by “tolerance” I mean acceptable power structures that, though pre-determined to be synonymous with oppression, might as well be “our” kind of oppression.

Any issue like this is going to be a matter of public theology. Real people are being emboldened right now, on both sides, to harm, intimidate, and suffocate the life out of the “other” in the room. And as public theologians (Christians) we must stand and refuse to wash our hands of it all. And while the country languishes in visions of its own Age, we look with our communal vision of the crucified Lord: “And he said unto them, ‘Go and tell that fox Herod, Behold, I cast out devils (Luke 13:32).'”

Jon

[1] I voted 3rd party, so relax ye champions of democracy!

[2] Remember the poor Muslim woman who had her hijab ripped off by a Trump supporter? Never happened: http://reason.com/blog/2016/11/11/election-night-hijab-attack-false.

[3] These quotes are actually taken from a series of writings done in the form of a “Literary Investigation” where the writer (Kierkegaard) take to diagnose the problems of society through his own lived intuition. Of course, this may seem hypocritical, but I do believe he was not only correct in his own time, but prophetic about the age we find ourselves in. 

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