Donald Trump wants to make “America great again”. Not to be outdone— even though she was— Hillary Clinton reminded one televised debate audience that “America is great because America is good.”
Hillary’s idea, however, is hardly original, but rather is borrowed from 19th century political scientist and diplomat, Alexis DeToqueville, who warned that if “America ever ceases to be good” it will also “cease to be great.”
All this banter might be called the “politics of goodness” and — goodness knows — such politics have been around a long time. Nations and persons want to be great, but there is a great deal of historical evidence to suggest that without goodness, true greatness is impossible — that political greatness would just be infamy, without something truly worthy of fame.
Nevertheless, people want cultural concepts that carry a minimum of political baggage. "Good" is one of those. Fitness centres cater to the “good life”. Value Village wants us to be “good boys”. Masonic halls claim to make “good men better.”
But amid all the frenzied rush for good — to “give something back” or “pay something forward” — our politics has a strange desire to expunge the Divine.
Christmas invariably bears this tendency out. In Texas, of all places, one school doesn’t want Linus quoting the Bible.
In Michigan’s capitol, there is a “snaketivity” to rival the traditional nativity scene.
In another community, a cross had to be removed from the top of a public Christmas tree.
Attacks on the Christian God are far more frequent than attacks on “good” itself. We all seemingly want good. Even atheists want “good without God."
Apparently, in satirical deference to Trump, this year they even want “great” without God, too, as one sponsored American billboard recently announced: “Make Christmas Great Again: Skip Church!”
Interestingly, such curious social values are not without empirical evidence. According to a 2016 Pew Research poll, religious “nones” strongly valued gratitude and even forgiveness (to which religious people might respond by asking, “to whom?” and “for what?”)
In general terms, we prefer our Christmas “magic” without any magi — our holly without any holy. We’d easily crunch our candy canes without a thought for wooly shepherds. We don’t heartily sing our carols inside houses of worship; we reduce them to mere ambience inside our stores.
Materialism, as it turns out, isn’t just a covert obsession with the material; these days, it is an overt rejection of the ethereal.
In ancient Greek, the words “angel” and “evangel” ("good news") were clearly connected. Today, though, we’d prefer that our heavenly messengers have no earthly message. And in case you’re wondering why, I would argue that the reason is political. We reflect the age-old problem of competing sovereignties. To this day…
The secularist wants utopia; the Christian, heaven.
The rationalist wants enlightenment; the Christian, redemption.
The humanist wants philanthropy; the Christian, charity.
The “free-thinker” wants fraternity; the Christian, family.
The atheist wants autonomy; the Christian, communion.
Jesus reminded one particular flatterer that “no one is good but God alone.” This is why the Incarnation is so stunning. Good isn’t a “thing”. Good is a Person, and He’s still on the outskirts of Bethlehem, attempting to move in.
Technically, his name is "Immanuel," meaning, “God with us” not “good with us”.
However, it’s a pre-Boxing Day bargain because we actually receive two for the price of one. That is, if we’ll have Him.
Granted, this all may seem like a rather bold message for a political news site. But if Canadians are to enjoy “peace, order, and good government”, we first need to remember where “good” comes from, and resist all attempts to reduce it to a mere commodity devoid of its living Source.
God without good is a perfect contradiction. But, as politically uncomfortable as it sounds, “good without God” is inevitably a fraud.
Be that as it is, Merry Christmas to all!