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Beyond Trump & Clinton

These dreadful candidates deliver a 'good shock of pain' that ought to dissolve our illusions

I know a lot of my conservative readers are very frustrated over my unwillingness to embrace Donald Trump in the face of Hillary Clinton. You know where I stand on Trump’s deal-killing character defects. Hillary is also a disaster, but of a different kind. I am very pessimistic about the future of America. But this is not news to you regular readers.

I want to give you a little more insight into where I’m coming from. First Things published a very good piece by Michael Hanby of the JPII Institute at Catholic U., in which he put the current Storm and Stress into perspective. Excerpts:

The kind of “soul-searching” I have in mind is not the endless cycle of mutual recrimination between those who are alleged to have sold their souls to Hillary, those who are alleged to have sold their souls to Trump, and those allegedly cowardly souls who withdrew from the fray. Besides the garden-variety cynicism and sophistry we have come to expect from American politics, times as confusing as these are sure to produce colossal but well intentioned errors of judgment on all sides. I leave it to God and the party apparatchiks to sort all that out. It is still the Year of Mercy, after all. Besides, I do not find the question of who voted for whom all that interesting. The vices of each candidate are well-known. They do not need to be weighed and measured yet again. A Trump election would likely have accelerated our descent into chaos, fueling violent social disintegration and fragmenting the “deep state” into an ad hoc collection of bureaucratic fiefdoms unresponsive to the erratic declarations of an unstable executive whom they regarded as illegitimate. A Clinton election almost certainly means that the juggernaut of progressive Cultural Revolution will proceed unobstructed. Each of these dismal possibilities is sure to bring painful real-world consequences, and together they manifest the exhaustion of liberal order and deep civilizational crisis which we lack the wherewithal to fully recognize or understand. It is this crisis that we should reflect upon.


“There is nothing like a good shock of pain,” writes C.S. Lewis in The Silver Chair, “for dissolving certain kinds of magic.” If there is hope to be found in this painful political year, it is in the fact that the spell which liberal modernity has long cast over the Christian imagination might finally be starting to dissolve even as technocracy tightens its grip on our everyday lives. The fundamental question in the wake of that dissolution and in the face of the interminable juggernaut of technological and liberal order is not whether we can rebuild conservatism or renew the moral foundations of civil society, but whether we can find our way to the fullness of the transcendent faith with all that this implies, and live in the light of a truly eschatological hope.

Or, to put it another way: In the end, shoring up the imperium is not what should concern orthodox Christians in A.D. 2016. Shoring up the church and the living Christian tradition is infinitely more important. Whence The Benedict Option.

I’m in New York for a couple of days attending a conference on big-t Tradition. I don’t know what the ground rules are, but I’m hoping to be able to blog on it, either in real time or later. I’ll find out tonight. There are some great people here. I hope to interview some of them for this blog.



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