It’s increasingly clear to most Americans today that, regardless of one’s political affiliation, our culture is in dire straights.
We’re hurting, and not because our politics are so toxic — that’s just a symptom. We’re hurting because we have abandoned the moral threading that once undergirded our society. We have traded faith in the Almighty and in moral absolutes for an unflinching obsession with politics, as if politicians and their policies can fill a space left vacant by a culture progressively at odds with a good God.
In an interview with Faithwire, Michael Wear, who served as a faith adviser to former President Barack Obama both in the White House and on the campaign trail, said the need for restoration is urgent.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take to repair our politics,” he warned, “but someone has to start and someone has to start now.”
The first step, Wear explained, must be to hold our elected officials to account — not by using their missteps and failings as tools in the arsenal of political one-upmanship, but by holding those within our own ranks, whether it be Republican or Democrat, responsible for their rhetoric and their actions.
“How we restore culture is by first holding ourselves accountable but then by holding our political side accountable,” Wear said. “By expecting more from our political allies than we do of our opponents, at least sequentially speaking.”
The former presidential adviser and author of “Reclaiming Hope” turned to the Trump administration’s recent “zero tolerance” immigration policy, and the familial separations that ensued as a result, as an example of this kind of accountability.
Trump was elected with the help of 81 percent of white evangelicals. Many prominent leaders within that same demographic, though, were quick to rebuke the hard-line immigration policy, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions originally defended by citing the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 13.
The approach was criticized by the Rev. Franklin Graham, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Dr. Russell Moore, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and a slew of other evangelical heavyweights. Even Johnnie Moore, the de facto spokesman for Trump’s informal evangelical advisory board, spoke out against the policy.
Moore told CBN News’ Jenna Browder that Sessions was “wrong to use scripture as he did to justify it.”
.@JohnnieM, one of many faith advisors to @realDonaldTrump, on separating families at the border: "We do not support the policy, and the Attorney General was wrong to use scripture as he did to justify it." @CBNNews #FaithNation
— Jenna Browder (@JennaBrowder) June 19, 2018
Eventually, and presumably as a result of the pushback he faced from his own supporters, Trump signed an executive order undoing the policy that led to underage children being taken from their parents and placed in detention centers while their guardians faced prosecution for entering the U.S. illegally.
“It was significant that you saw evangelicals speaking out to some degree against the family separation policy, and seeing a bit of relenting,” Wear said. “We need to see more of that.”
However, despite the bipartisan success of this one issue, that kind of moral consensus among Americans of all political stripes remains an anomaly. While there are some lawmakers trying to restore decency in our political discourse, the shadow cast by their uncivil counterparts is eclipsing their efforts.
Wear pointed to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) as examples of politicians seeking to restore civility and bipartisanship to what has become a dangerously polarized political landscape.
In order to elevate the decency of lawmakers like Coons and Scott over the disturbing rhetoric of politicians like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Wear said evangelicals and other large swaths of the American electorate must affirm morality and civility and reject the rancorous language coming from leaders on both sides of the aisle.
In this present time, or social media and news cycles are designed to elevate outrage. That will only change when We the People decide it must. As the old adage goes, change only occurs when the pain of staying the same outweighs the cost of changing.
“This is a politically perilous moment for our country,” Wear said. “Of course the policy implications are serious … but I’m concerned for the political culture of this country.”