Published August 2, 2023
There are temptations for Christians at a time of significant cultural and political polarization. Our present problems arise in no small part because of the increasing identification of people with the ideas and beliefs they hold. In times past, Western countries had a foundation of shared social capital that ran deeper than politics and thus prevented political disagreements from defining personal relationships.
That capital, whether we think of it in terms of patriotism, shared history, or common loves for things such as family and neighborhood, seems all but gone in many places. And once history, place, and family vanish as markers of who we are, only ideas remain. There is then nothing to bind together in the world outside the voting booth those who have always ticked different boxes within it. That my father voted Conservative and his father-in-law voted Labour was never a source of tension when I was growing up in Britain in the 1970s and ’80s. It is hard to believe the same would be true today.
One temptation that arises from the ideological fragmentation is despair. It is hard to be hopeful about anything when the world seems marked simply by the endless clash of incommensurable opinions. And yet despair is not an option for the Christian, nor is the burn-it-all-down attitude that springs from desperation. So where is hope to be found?
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.