From the corner where I sit, I see much of the conservative reaction to last month’s election as more dismaying than the election itself. After all, whichever of the two principal candidates won, the country was not going to be measurably better off. Certainly Christian interests would not be served, not that more than maybe a half-dozen Americans care about that.
It can’t be more than a half-dozen since so many millions proved ready to vote for either: 1) a candidate who has never shown evidence of being more than nominally Christian; or 2) a candidate who was not Christian at all.
The adage about the lesser of two evils still being evil has seldom been more apt. Of course I state that from the perspective of one of the half-dozen. With most Americans having abandoned the practice of Christianity even if they still profess it, it has become the popular view as well as the official one that bringing Christian beliefs and standards to bear on political questions is positively unAmerican. America, as everyone now agrees, is “diverse”.
But why do I find much of the conservative reaction to the election results dismaying? Because it is not grounded in reality. This is manifested by all the talk about vote fraud that has cluttered rightwing websites. It even showed up in comments on some lines about the election that I wrote and were posted on the SBC website a few weeks ago.
Mind you, I don’t deny that there may have been vote fraud. It even seems endemic in some places. But when hasn’t there been vote fraud? Some of us are old enough to remember reports in 1960 that Joseph P. Kennedy secured that year’s election victory for his son John by buying votes in Chicago (of the dead as well as living). However, the Kennedy-Nixon vote was close, not as close as Bush-Gore in 2000, but a lot closer than Obama-Romney this year.
It strains credulity that vote fraud can have been so widespread as to account for the margin of President Obama’s victory. At least it strains mine. Why, then, do so many conservatives allege it?
I can think of only one explanation. They have an idea of America that is so unreal compared to what actually exists, they can’t imagine how Obama could win except by stealing the election. I.e., he wouldn’t be elected by the same country that voted for Ronald Reagan.
Indeed he would not. The trouble is America in 2012 is not the nation it was in 1980, not racially, culturally, socially or politically. In fact, the America of some folks’ imagining was already so near gone by 1980 that otherwise the divorced actor would have been recognized for the faux conservative he was. This was confirmed when the immoralist Bill Clinton was elected a scant twelve years later. What ought to have been clear at that time, but few seem to have understood, was that once the U.S. voting majority were sunk so low that somebody like Clinton could be elected, no one materially better would be afterward – not unless the electorate changed for the better. (That Clinton is now honored as the nearest thing we can produce to an elder statesman testifies to the fact that, morally speaking, they have not, however much things have changed in other respects.)
The worst, the most fanciful of the fantasying conservatives are the remaining Christians in their ranks who root their unreal idea of America today in the notion of a past one that has never existed: that of a Christian America.
I need to be more careful of my language. Yes, once upon a time America, the nation, surely was Christian at least in the sense that most of the white men who ran it practiced, as well as professed, some Protestant form of the religion; and even those who didn’t embrace such a form were still obliged to live according to the majority’s standards or face social ostracism. Never mind that this could sometimes make daily life as grim and dull as it was in Calvin’s Geneva or Cromwell’s England. The real point is that the republic was founded as a liberal one. It is not Christian. It never was. The Founding Fathers, true sons of the Enlightenment, intended a government that would operate according to the will of the people, not God’s.
Two centuries later we have a society, as well as a government, that is liberal. This was bound to happen because a Christian society – a Christian nation – requires a Christian government to sustain it. Revolutionaries understand this. The tragedy of our Christians is that too many of them haven’t.
In any event, it was definitely the will of the people that was expressed on November 6, not vote fraud revealed, by the reelection of President Obama, and also by approval, for instance, of same-sex marriage in three states – another measure of how deeply into moral squalor Americans have sunk since abandoning their historical religion.
Deniers of such reality put me in mind of those cradle Catholics, now in their seventies or older, who contrive to remember the life of the Church in the U.S. in the 1950s as a golden age of the Faith. Apart from the fact the U.S. Church had already largely forgotten that outside the Faith there is no salvation, if what existed then really was so vibrant, how could all of it have been lost so fast? Of course the disappearance of Christian America, the nation, was accelerated by that loss.
There are a few serious men in the country who talk among themselves and on occasion in public, as sometimes at the annual SBC conferences, about Christian government for a Christian society, but they aren’t in a position to do anything about it, nor will they or anybody else ever be until more Americans lead Christian lives, which they might begin to do by facing such realities as I have traced here along with some others.
Did I say “begin”? I’m wrong again. The real beginning has to be with prayer, but not for a Christian America with a Christian government as if God would make them suddenly materialize in response to X number of novenas. Rather, it should be for personal transformation in Christ, wisdom, charity, fortitude and, above all, courage because every virtue is incomplete without it.
P.S. If I here characterized President Obama as giving no evidence of being more than nominally Christian, it is fair to acknowledge that at least he has never subjected us to the “shining city upon a hill” claptrap of his predecessor, a self-described “born again” who grandiosely assigned to the nation a mission to “end evil in the world” (his words) and accordingly led us into two evil wars (evil because waged to no moral purpose), both of which, everyone now wants to forget, enjoyed near-universal popular support at their beginning.