The 19th century German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, advanced a concept of dialectics. Put simply, it explains the evolution of history, the documentation of Human Beings advancing toward God through time. Hegel was building on Fredrich Schleiermacher’s previous work. Essentially, Hegel was introducing the method by which Western Eras advanced – how the Age of Deism gave way to the Age of Reason, that gave way to the Age of Enlightenment, that gave way to the Age of Liberalism. According to Hegel, an Age begins with a Philosophical Thesis. In time, a counter-cultural argument, an Anti-thesis (an antithesis) evolves that challenges the Thesis upon which the Age has endured. There is then a clashing of ideas and the failure of the Thesis to endure the struggle of new ideas. Over time and philosophical evolution the Thesis no longer holds sway over advancing minds given the challenges of the Anti-thesis. However, the Anti-thesis proves less resilient than the Thesis. What comes from the clash of ideas is a Synthesis upon which is built the next Age. The new age brings about a new philosophical movement and new advancements in civilization, thinking, and history. This new movement is a synthesis of the clash between the Thesis and Antithesis.
It is my contention that clearly over forty percent of the American society is waging a counter cultural attack on the prevailing Thesis of the Age of Liberalism. Benchmarks of the burgeoning end of this Age are: The rise of the Tea Party and Christian nationalism. Both encourage the distrust of presented facts and of public media to be objective in relating facts. The preference of adherents of these movements is to rely on what one wants to believe even when facts are presented to contradict those beliefs. There is a reduction of the preference for the rule of law in the face of charisma. There is an acceptance and a reversion to the principle of the end justifies the means and an overall contempt of competence, professionalism, credentials and intellectualism in governance and leadership.
Therefore, I submit that we are in a time of transformation from the Age of Modern Liberalism to a new Age. What will that be? I have no idea.
What can we do about it? Hold tight to our faith that we will advance in God’s wisdom. We can trust that human wisdom is folly. The Age of Liberalism has seen its day and a new day is on the horizon. The Best and Brightest of our Age have not given us more to expect from the future than anyone from Ages past. We continue to toxify our resources of water, air and land. We continue to deplete our ozone layer. We are no closer to the end of eternal war than we have ever been. Poverty, hunger, disease, and human suffering is no closer to a solution. Do not fear the next Age, it can’t get any worse. The transition through the antithesis, though, will not be pleasant.
In his book, United Methodism @ Risk, (© Information Project for United Methodists, 2003) Leon Howell maps out the 50-year plan that began with the defeat of Barry Goldwater by Lyndon Johnson. The plan was a result of a Rand Corporation study commissioned by Conservatives to alter the Liberalism influencing American politics. It’s an interesting read. I recommend to anyone who can get it. Many of us who followed the plan believed that President George W. Bush in collaboration with Dick Chaney, Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz was the culmination of the plan. The Wolfowitz Doctrine (http://work.colum.edu/~amiller/wolfowitz1992.htm) was an outline of the international policy that was the inevitable outcome of the Conservative plan.
The outcome of that Bush Administration was far less impressive than us Liberalists presumed. That was only because the rise of the Bush years was not the culmination of the plan. Donald J. Trump’s years are the culmination. And the Age of Liberalism is meeting its antithesis. The Age of Liberalism’s first antithesis conflict is with Christian nationalism.
In his October 8th article, “Confronting the perils of Christian nationalism,” in the Providence Journal, Rev. Jamie P. Washam, defines Christian nationalism best when he describes it as “a cultural framework that merges civic identity with a narrow interpretation of Christianity in a way that distorts both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy, to the detriment of both.” (https://www.providencejournal.com/story/opinion/2020/10/08/opinionwasham-confronting-perils-of-christian-nationalism/114246626/)
Christian nationalism evidences the hypocrisy of Conservative Christians long held vilifying efforts for adulterers, fornicators, liars, deviants, corruptors, thieves, idolators and the godless. Their poster child is Donald J. Trump, who has exhibited these traits proudly and publicly. By doing so, it has caused, by affiliation, the Church to lose its integrity, authority, and legitimacy.
As these Christian nationalists proudly proclaim fake NEWS at any reports that offer fact checks to the lies offered in public discourse, devolve any civility in public discourse to boorishness, abuse and threaten competent experts who offer facts during our pandemic, defame our courts and enforcement and intelligence agencies, the integrity of our democratic process, challenge the Constitution and Bill of Rights for their limited benefit, delegitimize the institution of the Christian church in America, reverse the separation of Church and State, and insist in the public school teachings of cultic theories instead of science, they seek to ungird the foundations of the Theses of our Age and unleash chaos and harness order.
To any adherent, student, or philosopher of 20th century Liberalism these folks are anathema to Christian faith, American values, and decency. Their thought process are as alien to us as something that oozed out of Area 51.
That is not to say they are wrong. They are simply wrong to any child of 20th century enlightenment.
I’m sure there’s a lot I could say better, expand upon or offer background on. If there is let me know about it. I’m open to your thoughts.
Also see: Christian nationalism is not religious freedom
By Oliver “Buzz” Thomas in The Tennessean
The job of U.S. Christians in an election year, By Amanda Tyler in Sojourners
A reminder to Christians this election season: Be political, not partisan, By the Rev. Aurelia Dávila Pratt in the Austin American-Statesman
and, Who knew ‘unalienable rights’ could undermine life, liberty and true happiness?, By Marv Knox in Baptist News Global