I was reading about the spaceship orbiting Jupiter yesterday morning when something decidedly more down-to-earth hit my Twitter feed: the FBI director had just announced that he would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information when she was secretary of state.
I knew this would dominate the news cycle, so I wrote a white paper for our website: The Clinton email scandal: what you need to know. There I survey the history of the controversy, issues raised by the debate, practical questions, and ways Christians should respond. For today’s Cultural Commentary, I’d like to focus on a theme I didn’t address in the white paper.
When you heard the news, what was your immediate response? If you’re a Clinton advocate, you probably saw the announcement as vindicating your support. No criminal charges were recommended, so her campaign believes that the matter is now resolved.
If you’re a Clinton critic, you probably saw the announcement as vindicating your opposition. The FBI director strongly criticized Mrs. Clinton and her colleagues for being “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Two sides, reacting to the same report, are defending two completely different positions. Such is the state of our political culture today.
According to a recent survey, ninety-two percent of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, while ninety-four percent of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican. The percentage in each party with a highly negative view of the other party has more than doubled since 1994.
Here’s my explanation: a democratic group requires a foundational worldview, a moral core upon which to base its life together. Just as you can’t have a conversation without a shared vocabulary, so you can’t have a “democracy” (“rule of the people”) unless the people have some rules they agree to observe together.
When that foundational core begins to disintegrate, the democracy will split into factions coalescing around mutual principles. CIA Director John Brennan is observing such disintegration around the world, causing “societies that once embraced a national identity to fracture along ethnic and sectarian lines.” Could he say the same of America?
Three months before it declared independence from Great Britain, the Second Continental Congress proclaimed March 16, 1776, a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer. Their purpose in calling the nation to God: “That we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness.”
Can you imagine Congress issuing such a proclamation today?
The political fault lines of our culture will only deepen in the months before the election. But it’s not too late. What our Lord said to ancient Israel I believe he is saying to us: “I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it” (Ezekiel 22:30).
In a culture that lacks trust, let’s be people of trust. In a day that lacks hope, let’s share our hope in Christ. In a nation that lacks direction, let’s seek the direction of God’s Spirit. C. S. Lewis: “Safety and happiness can come only from individuals, classes, and nations being honest and fair and kind to each other.”
Let it begin with us. Changed people change the world.