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Affluent Christian Investor | October 23, 2020

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The Wrong Way To Vote For Trump

Voting isn’t just voting. It’s also talking about voting, which means it’s not just about politics, it’s about culture.

Four years ago at about this time, I wrote somethings critical about Trump. Maybe it was “grab ’em by the…” or maybe it was some childish insult about his wife being prettier than Ted Cruz’s wife… I don’t really remember.

Someone on Facebook (I honestly don’t remember who it was) described my comments as ‘voter suppression’ efforts. I think the idea was that I would influence some people who would’ve voted for Trump along party loyalty lines not to come out to vote.

But what struck me about that was the reductionism of it. Trump had said some horrendous things, and many religious right former-moralists were playing it down. So they were talking about voting and doing it in a way that degraded their own moral authority and debased the ethical standards. Those are important things, so I spoke up. But if you think that in the end everything comes down to political power, then you will reduce every conversation down to a calculus — which side does it pull towards in the giant tug of war? You will see reasoning in public about virtue and character as nothing more than politics via other means. Spiritual and cultural arguments are treated only as ammo for one side or the other.

It kind of reminds me of the book Flatland, in which a sphere visits a land of only two dimensions. To the residents of Flatland, he’s just a circle. As he moves through the plain, the circle gets bigger as it approaches the circumference of the sphere. No amount of explaining works. the world is only circles, squares, triangles. Information is literally flattened down to fit.

Later in the book, the sphere visits Lineland, which is only one dimension. You can go one way on the line, or the other — that’s it.

As politics cannibalizes everything else, we’re becoming Lineland. Just two poles and one decision: which pole to move towards.

In our new Lineland, what I just wrote will probably be interpreted as an admonition to vote against Trump. It is not. Vote for him if you like — that’s your call and I’m not criticizing it. This is an admonition about how to vote for him if you plan to. Do it without illusions, and without denial and without groupthink. Don’t become an enabler. Don’t become an enforcer. In other words: Give him your vote, not your heart.

I happen to think that politics is downstream from culture. That was once a truism among conservatives, especially Christian conservatives. Okay, then understand that uncritical and enthusiastic support for Trump and enmity towards his enemies (especially ones who you agree with on the big issues) in my opinion puts politics ahead of culture. Your kids are watching and listening. So are other people’s kids. So is the culture. That is our largest long-term influence, our spiritual and cultural influence. Those are the dimensions that distinguish Lineland and Flatland from Sphereland.

One other thing: It’s going to get harder. As Rene Girard points out, as the gigantic rivalry that splits a society progresses, it swallows other smaller rivalries into it. All our pettier grudges align along The Great Grudge’s faultline. Girard says as this happens, it is almost impossible to resist getting caught up in that great struggle. But as the sides become more heated in their hatred for one another, they also become more alike in their tactics. They imitate each other. The choices become more alike at the same time the conflict becomes more intense. The compulsion to subsume your identity into your side gets higher at exactly the time when the choice between the sides matters less.

 

 

Originally published on Townhall Finance.

 

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