Published February 21, 2022
The appointment of Sam Brinton, a very public “queer” activist, to the U.S. Department of Energy is merely the latest sign of decadence in the dying culture of the West. Brinton, a man of such exotic and public perversions that I cannot in good conscience describe them here, is a sign of the times. It is, of course, not his perversions that are problematic with regard to his basic competence as a public official. It is the fact that he is an exhibitionist who uses his twisted sexuality to bully others in the workplace with the specific intention of “educating” the public, as Rod Dreher documents with a notable lack of squeamishness (you have been warned).
What is interesting, of course, is that this is yet another sign of how the Biden presidency seems not simply mortgaged to the radical extremists of the left but positively committed to promoting their causes. And that raises interesting questions about the #NeverTrump evangelicals.
One of the interesting aspects of #NeverTrump evangelicals was the absolute refusal to allow for any legitimate reason to vote for Donald Trump. Joe Biden, they claimed, was going to restore some dignity to the office of president of the United States. Character counts. And so it does. But when two reprehensible candidates are the only options, character ceases to be a decisive issue, and Biden has more than proved that this was the case in the 2020 presidential election.
When it comes to restoring the office’s dignity, he has done no such thing. He has shown that he is quite capable of being rude and disrespectful of those with whom he disagrees. And now he has appointed Brinton to a government position. Analogies between this present age and the most decadent of Roman emperors are typically overblown and overwrought, but in this situation, they seem sadly appropriate. Perversion and exhibitionism of such a baroque type as that which Brinton represents surely indicates the mainstreaming of behavior previously regarded as a sign of deep mental illness. Now it walks the corridors of Biden’s administration.
The problem with the #NeverTrumpers was—and remains—their adamant refusal to acknowledge that politics in general and voting in particular is a messy, compromised business. By denying any with whom they disagreed that line of defense in the Trump years, they must now face the consequence of their own principle of argumentation. After all, it is a sound New Testament principle that with the measure you have measured it out, it eventually will be measured back to you. How does that look in the wake of the Brinton appointment? Are they still confused as to why some people, with a heavy heart and a conflicted conscience, might have felt they had no choice but to pull the lever for Trump? If they are still perplexed by this, then their aspirations to “save evangelicalism from itself” would seem to reveal a startling lack of self-awareness.
Of course, that is not surprising when one considers how Francis Collins was lauded as a faithful presence by a number of evangelical leaders upon his retirement, even though, as The Daily Wire’s Megan Basham recently demonstrated in painful detail, Collins’ “faithful presence” at the National Institutes of Health does not seem to have gone beyond that of faithfully turning up to work. In the real world, there are humble employees all over the country for whom “faithful presence” of the truly Christian kind comes with significant personal discomfort and professional cost, a cost that looks set to climb under Biden. Perhaps less time spent at photo opportunities with The New York Times and more time spent in conversation with ordinary evangelicals who reluctantly voted for Trump might help. Even better—maybe there is a young evangelical woman who now finds herself having to work under Brinton at the Department of Energy. She might be able to help clarify the matter for them.
To be fair to them, the #NeverTrumpers are probably the victims of an honest misunderstanding. When elected, Joe Biden claimed that the adults were back in charge. My guess is that the #NeverTrumpers naively assumed he meant “adult” as in “grown-ups.” The Brinton appointment indicates that he likely meant “adult” as in “bookstore” and “videos.” It’s a mistake anyone could have made. Up until last week, that is.
Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Carl R. Trueman is a fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping civic leaders and policy makers better understand the deep roots of our current cultural malaise. In addition to his scholarship on the intellectual foundations of expressive individualism and the sexual revolution, Trueman is also interested in the origins, rise, and current use of critical theory by progressives. He serves as a professor at Grove City College.