Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks often of his religion—but he tailors it to fit his politics, and it focuses on works over faith
It may have been only 20 weeks since Election Day, but we’re already hard at it again. So may I remind you, as I have before in this space, of a lesson that seems hard for us to learn: Government isn’t the problem.
You’d never know it from the way we allocate our time, our energy, and our dollars. “I can’t remember,” I’ve already heard a variety of folks say with all sincerity, “when there has ever been a more important election.” They’re talking, believe it or not, about 2020.
But in fact, our government—big and influential as it may be—is not so much a shaper of its people as it is shaped by those people. Two other players in the culture of American society do much more to influence our citizens’ thinking. They are the mainstream media and the massive educational establishments.
I mean “media” in the big sense—including both information and entertainment. There’s almost no such thing as a straight news program on TV anymore; if TV news isn’t also vividly entertaining, it doesn’t last. The same influences affect the print media as well—probably including WORLD. We print people are also scrambling to compete for your attention. Information, by itself, just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Structurally, the deck is stacked. In any election cycle, the mind-shapers are all wearing pretty much the same uniform.
And I mean “education” in the big sense. Certainly that includes government education on the preschool, elementary, secondary, university, and graduate levels—a 22-year monopoly, from age 3 to 25, on the thinking of at least 75 percent of all citizens. But even when private education steps in with a substitute, it is typically private education of the sort offered by the nation’s Stanfords, Dukes, and Notre Dames—an ideological substitute that really isn’t any different. And sadly, even much of what goes by the name of Christian education is little more than warmed-over secularism.
So structurally, the deck is stacked. Coming into any election cycle, the mind-shapers are all wearing pretty much the same uniform.
We should hardly be surprised then when we also find a monolithic ideological worldview stamped all over the system’s products. As numerous and diverse as all those media and educational forces may seem, on almost all the basic issues of life, they speak with a common point of view. For example, in our nation’s media and educational establishment:
•Naturalism almost always trumps supernaturalism. Darwinism’s dominance over the last century hasn’t ultimately had to do only with science. Darwinism’s true impact has been on everything else. For if God isn’t the Creator of all that exists—if He isn’t the first mover—then He really doesn’t matter much. Now He can be marginalized. That is the implicit assumption of the media and the educational establishment throughout our society.
•The “out-of-adjustment” explanation always trumps the “sin” explanation. No behaviors anymore (with the exceptions, of course, of intolerance and hate crimes) are always and positively wrong. When something does seem out of kilter with society’s norms, it’s probably traceable to a bad childhood or some other kind of maladjustment. But even then, the problem is seen as minor. For if we saw our problems to be major, then we would need major outside help. And just as we resist the idea of an outside first mover, our pride forces us to resist the idea of an outside helper.
•Pluralism always trumps truth. If you can fudge the truth about origins and pull off a huge cover-up on the nature of what’s gone wrong since then, probably it won’t matter much if you start questioning the essence of truth itself. So it’s part and parcel of today’s media and educational scene to argue strenuously that no one has a corner on the truth. For Jesus to claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” is too arrogant and exclusivist for today’s mindset.
Indeed, so pervasive has such thinking been within the media and educational establishments that you might consider it a miracle that anyone takes even minor exception to such non-Christian assertions.
Soon, we’ll be exploring whether a few new faces in Washington and several state capitals might make a difference. It’s a good exercise. But the people who want to monopolize your mind are pretty much everywhere.