I have vague memories of the tragicomic primary season, so entertaining with its serial clowns. Remember when the GOP front runner was Rick Perry? And his delightful meltdown? Or when Newt Gingrich was a serious challenger to Willard? Or Herman Cain? And Rick “Supercatholic” Santorum’s rise and unlikely withdrawal?
And then the race itself, with Mr Romney remaking himself at every turn, ready to say whatever it took to be president.
But it is the morning after, a time to sort things out.
While “prolifers” (I no longer use the term without quotation marks) insisted that Romney was the man, he himself and his surrogates did everything they could to distance themselves from an antiabortion stance, other than insist, to the right crowds, that Mitt would govern as a “prolife” president, whatever that means in that context. And it became abundantly clear that to too many, especially to conservative Catholics, the only issues were abortion, gay “marriage”, and the HHS mandate. There were various “voter’s guides” that stressed four or five “non-negotiable” issues, none of which involved torture, war, economic injustice, health care, or much else north of the waist.
In the aftermath there is a sort of shock settling in on the political and religious right. While some, like the almost ineffible Quinn and Rose, believe that the reason for Romney’s defeat was that he just wasn’t far enough to the right, I heard a chastened Hannity consider the possibility that the nation was no longer “center right”.
While Americans of whatever stripe still suffer from the undiagnosed disease of messianic nationalism, the nation indeed is changing. Two days ago, for the first time, gay marriage was approved by the electorate in two states. Obama lost the popular vote among white voters, but carried every other demographic. You know, the ones that are increasing in numbers. It is not unlikely that we are seeing a new paradigm emerging.
As with most things, this is not all bad: in the long term it looks like the sort of “Thing That Used To Be Conservatism”- to use Mark Shea’s phrase- appears doomed. But as I recall, the Thing is very resilient.
But what is emerging is not friendly to traditional Christianity, either.
And that is not all bad, either. It may awaken the churches from their stupor.
It is high time that the apostolic Churches and other faith communities to remove themselves from the cushy relationship to power, with its embrace of the heresy that is American civil religion, that this photo epitomizes:
Cardinal Dolan, who apparently aspires to be the Cardinal Spellman of his age, is playing the part of the establishment prelate, in an age when that establishment is more hostile to what he proclaims to believe than at any time in the nation’s history (though the idea that it was ever friendly to the faith is an illusion).
It is high time for Christians to abandon their belief that America is friendly to them, that we are a valued part of the status quo. This, at a time when the credibility of the churches is at an all time low. When the public face of Christianity is the abuse scandals, prosperity preachers, and polls that show religious people more in favor of war and torture than the general public, we have a long way to go to make any mark in the wider culture. The nation needs spiritual renewal, and it is very unlikely that that is going to happen, given the impression we Christians are making.
The only place to begin is within, to reassess our own discipleship, to begin again to truly follow, not the Americanist version of Christ, but the real Christ, the One who commands us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us.
If we can even hear Him, amid the shouting.
But let us begin by heeding His first words to His first disciples: “Come, follow me.”