a small sign of hope - a mud-stained and tattered American flag stands in a pile of debris left by Hurricane Katrina in Chalmette, Louisiana

A Stranger in a Strange Land: I Feel Out of Place and Out of Sorts in American Politics Today

I want my children to grow up loving God, their parents, and their neighbors. I spend a lot of time in my book to them writing about this and about how they need to focus on their local community instead of the daily political angst. I want them to have that luxury, but I make my daily living by covering politics. Increasingly, I find I have no political home for the first time in forever.

I was an elected Republican. I served three and a half years of a four year term, only leaving because I could not take a full time radio job with my present employer while also being a part time city councilman. I never figured out during my time on city council what a partisan position on trash collection was. There were certainly ideological positions on public or private trash collection. But the GOP and Democrats did not have staked out positions.

Nowadays it seems both parties have positions on everything and they set their position not by what is best but by what the other side is for. They are guaranteed to be the opposite. And both sides are so tribal and now into cults of personality that the ideas are no longer important. Beating the other side is important. And American history shows over and over and over that it is impossible to beat the other side. There is no permanence in American politics.

Unfortunately, both sides now seem to want permanent victories and will not let anything or anyone get in their way. But to do so they have raised up the fringes of both sides that sound just like each other. I thought about that yesterday reading this excellent piece by Dan McLaughlin. The alt-right and the increasingly mainstream racial left would both define the United States in terms of skin color and both are positing that the white race is superior. It is just that one wants to prop it up and the other to tear it down — both willing to resort to violence for their ends.

I want an America that sees past race and increasingly both sides are defined by race. And the left, on top of defining people by skin color, adds gender, sexual orientation, and even particular deviancies to the mix.

On the right, a party that used to be centered around the idea of smaller government and individual empowerment is instead captured by its own personality that centers around a strong man in Washington and whatever he wants.

I used to really think my side took faith seriously and Christian values seriously, but at this point the joke is on me. It doesn’t. In Georgia, the Republicans are promising Amazon.com a boat load of taxpayer money if they build their second headquarters in the state and, to sweeten the deal, are promising to kill off any attempt at passing religious liberty legislation. In Washington, the GOP is screaming about Harvey Weinstein while ignoring the serial philanderer who was bragging about fame allowing men to grab women, well, you know. And the Christian conservatives went wild.

Christians are supposed to find some peace in the world by knowing that there is a last day and they are on the winning team. But right now a bunch of American Christians are looking to political solutions for spiritual problems and convincing themselves they’re making a Heaven on earth. They’ve gone all in on a works based earthly salvation that will only damn them and make things worse long term.

Compounding the problem are the growing number of cowards in the pulpit to preach a weak faith, a political faith, or fail to even preach the basics lest their congregation get mad at them. My goodness, a growing number of evangelicals think Jesus was created and they could not care less that Biblical sexual ethics really are necessary and incumbent to a consistent Christian world view.

So many people going to church on Sunday looked at Trump and called him a Cyrus, but increasingly this looks like a Maccabean revolt. Sure, they threw out those they saw as pagans and set about purifying temple America, but things did not exactly go well for the people or the kingdom thereafter. Of course it was all downhill to Herod and the first coming, so maybe it’ll all be downhill from here to the second coming. That increasingly looks likely as the world goes mad, this country included.

And therein lies the problem. People are political animals — maybe not to the same extent, but people are political. We decide our future in groups except when Anthony Kennedy wants to decide it for all 320 million of us. And right now both parties have lost their damn minds and, frankly, their religion.

The time is right for a group to rise up and bring together people of faith across race and ethnic lines. The Republican Party seems intent on ignoring the Biblical command to take care of the widows, the orphans, the poor, and the refugee. The Democratic Party seems intent on ignoring the Bible altogether — hijacked by a virulent and mean spirited secularism that preached tolerance until dominate and now seeks to silence good.

I want a new party, and a conservative one where conservatism is not defined by beating the other side, but by pursuing the best policies.

I want a party that recognizes we need a social safety net because there are those who, through physical or mental infirmity, cannot take care of themselves. But I want a party discerning enough to not let everybody onto the safety net.

I want a party that is pro-family and structures the tax code accordingly and fights for school choice so parents can get their kids educated instead of indoctrinated.

I want a party that is pro-life and that does not run from the Bible.

I want a pro-life, pro-family party that does not want to round up a twenty year old and send him back to a country he does not know after his parents brought him here as a toddler and this is the only country he has every known. But I also want a party that does not give his parents citizenship, even if we decide to let them stay here.

I want a party that secures its border, but does not demonize its neighbors.

I want a party that supports the second amendment, but also supports the first amendment.

I want a party that recognizes as long as Washington makes all our decisions then every hill is a hill to die on and every fight is bloody so that it de-escalates the fights by making Washington less central to our lives.

I want a party that does not define people by the color of their skin or where their families came from, but sees us all as part of the American experiment.

And I want a party that is beholden to ideas, not men.

I thought I had those things once. But I don’t. And I don’t think I have changed so much as my party has changed. Really, I just want a conservatism where ideas still matter.

To the extent that I have changed, though, I think I have changed for the better. I have a harder time reconciling my faith to my politics and see so many of my friends trying to squeeze their faith into their politics. I would rather go the opposite way and connect my politics to my faith, giving up those things that cannot be reconciled.

To the extend I have no party home any more, I find it freeing to be wedded more to the idea. And I find a great deal more faith in scripture that I really am a stranger in a strange land. But even so, I know I am called to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:7)

So if I have no home in either party, at least perhaps I can be a voice for those who likewise have no home, but are still committed to seeking the welfare of this place we temporarily dwell. I know I will still gravitate toward Republican candidates because that is still where most conservative candidates go. And I know that will find me on occasion supporting the same candidate as a Steve Bannon. But it will also mean I need to speak out and speak up on the ideas and the values and stand firm against a blending of Christianity and American nationalism for my faith is a faith that crosses borders, time, and space, and my conservatism is not soil and blood conservatism, but a conservatism of liberty for each person because we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

Perhaps in this age of tribalism, the tribe we have not accounted for is the one with others like me.

I’m kind of homesick for a country
To which I’ve never been before
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken
For time won’t matter anymore

Beulah Land, I’m longing for you
And some day on thee I’ll stand
There my home shall be eternal
Beulah Land – Sweet Beulah Land

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Erick Erickson

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