Last week offered two news stories that reveal the political future of America.
Story 1: a middle school teacher here in Florida was revealed to be a white nationalist. As first reported by the Huffington Post, a Crystal River teacher named Dayanna Volitich hosted a podcast and Twitter account (under an alias) in which she routinely voiced the typical positions of the Alt-Right, targeting blacks, Jews, and Muslims. Once her secret identity was revealed, Ms. Volitich claimed that her opinions were merely a form of satire. That seems unlikely, given her previous comments, and really – it is beside the point. There are many people for whom such opinions are deadly serious.
Story 2: former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was forced to resign from the charitable foundation of the Country Music Association because of the policy positions he espoused regarding issues like same-sex marriage. Various LGBTQ activists expressed indignation that someone like Huckabee would serve on the board of this foundation that focuses on music education in schools, despite his proven track record in education reform as a governor (which one of the critics conceded). Even though he was clearly qualified to serve on such a board, his traditional Christian views regarding matters like same-sex marriage disqualified him from service in the eyes of some activists. And it is clear that for growing numbers of people on the Hard Left, no one who holds similar views (evangelical Protestants, confessing Catholics, orthodox Jews, mainstream Muslims) should have a voice in public life. In their mind, the moral tradition of the monotheistic religions is simple “hatred.”
This is where we are headed as a nation. On the Alt-Right we have authoritarians who are fixated on tribal loyalty and racial superiority. And on the Hard Left we have totalitarians who are determined to coerce everyone to accept their radical redefinitions of marriage, gender, and personhood. Both extremes reflect the worst kinds of bigotry that have plagued America (racial and religious). The only difference is that the Alt-Right proudly embraces its bigotry, while the Hard Left is self-righteously blind to its bigotry. And since neither extreme acknowledges any sort of transcendent truth, what drives both is the pursuit of and exercise of raw power. That explains the growing phenomenon of Neo-Nazi violence by the Alt Right, and violent campus protests by the Hard Left.
Ideally, fair-minded people on both sides of the political aisle would call out and confront the radicalism that is emerging from their end of the ideological spectrum. There are indeed many conservative commentators who have denounced the Alt-Right (such as Ben Shapiro, David French, Rod Dreher). There are far fewer liberal commentators who have challenged the Hard Left (Jonathan Haidt being the rare exception). This is because (as Pew data shows) the Left has lurched far more to its extreme than has the Right. But we don’t need polling to confirm this. In the mid 90’s, the Defense of Marriage Act passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support and was signed into law by a Democrat president who also declared that the “era of big government is over” and that abortion should be “rare.” That seems like ancient history. Today’s liberals aren’t calling out the Hard Left because they increasingly are the Hard Left. The net result is that both extremes are feeding each other.
And for those of us who are committed to following Christ, this increasingly polarized political environment is going to place us in the crosshairs of both extremes. The Alt-Right has made it clear that it detests the Christian commitment to brotherly love that knows no racial, ethnic, or national boundaries. And the Hard Left equally despises the Christian commitment to the Lordship of Christ rather than personal autonomy in matters of sexual ethics.
This is nothing new, though. Christianity is just as counter-cultural in the 21st century as it was in the first century when tribalism and relativism were also dominant. And as we declare and display the gospel with Jesus’ mix of conviction and compassion, we can call people to an identity that rises above race and tribe, and that transcends lust and gratification. Is this going to be easy? No. It requires tough-minded love. But tough-minded love is what the cross Jesus bore and we have chosen to bear is all about.