Neo-Calvinist praise from David Koyzis for Bruce Ashford’s contention that political liberals and political conservatives both lack transcendence:
Politics in the United States has, for some time, assumed a binary structure. On one side stand the Republicans, who represent conservatism. On the other side stand the Democrats, who represent progressivism. But what most Americans fail to see is that conservatism and progressivism are similar in one significant respect. Both ideologies are “moving targets” that lack transcendent norms, which leads to a nearly endless variety of social ills. It may, at times, be appropriate to be conservative, and at others progressive. But when these designations become normative, they become idolatrous.
This sort of observation seems to be tone deaf to the religious inflection of contemporary politics. Just remember all the national exceptionalism that appeals to the United States’ special (read divine) role in world affairs.
But this way of looking at politics also seems to be oblivious to the actual stuff of civic life, namely, ordinary affairs as opposed to supernatural aspirations. Would transcendence, for instance, really resolve the snow-removal crisis in Baltimore (thanks to our Pennsylvania correspondent)?
In Harford County, residents complained that their online snow tracker went dark overnight. Baltimore County officials fielded complaints from constituents who remained snowbound Monday. And some residents in Anne Arundel and Carroll counties griped about the pace of the cleanup.
But many residents also said they gained a greater appreciation for how their tax dollars are spent to carry out one of government’s most essential functions: keeping the roads functioning.
Facebook pages for nearly all of the area’s jurisdictions lit up with complaints and compliments for how snow removal crews were progressing.
For their part, elected officials don’t shy from public appearances during major storms, promising a diligent response and hoping to win political currency. And in Maryland, voters are typically more forgiving of any failures, said Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political scientist.
Not so where major snow events are more common. Crenson pointed to Michael Bilandic, mayor of Chicago in the late 1970s when a blizzard crippled that city for months.
“His snow removal efforts were so feeble he lost the next election,” Crenson said. Maryland voters “are likely to give their elected officials a pass.”
I understand the appeal of thinking the Lordship of Christ will fix what ails fallen life. After all, Christ is the great fixer. But sometimes, when Protestants or conservatives invoke divine or philosophical categories as the cure for political woes, I can’t help but think they have missed the point of politics.