Today is the first day of 2017 and, because of all the turmoil of the past year, I’m already wondering what January 1, 2018 will be like. Here are some ideas.
First and most generally, I have been saying for a couple of decades that we are witnessing the end of a major period in Western history that began with the Renaissance, blossomed in the Enlightenment, and crystallized into the Industrial Revolution. The beginning of the transition to whatever comes next was World War II. It was won not be the US or England or any of our allies but by the incredible management of the industries producing our grand steel weapons. trump is the culmination of the West’s movement toward seeing government as a form of business.
Second, in the US we have elected a president who shows no comprehension of democracy, no interest in learning anything, and a hubris that would make the ancient Greeks blush. He believes all transactions are merely part of the game of making deals and has an absolutely amazing lack of morals or ideals. By 2018 he will be thoroughly discredited but — if we do not wake up — may be deeply entrenched in power. The Republican Party has completely failed the American people and has bowed the knee to a demagogue. 2017 is going to be a rough year politically and January, 2018, may find us more divided than ever. The Republicans may never recover from their self-chosen weakness.
Third, contemporary American “evangelicals” have brought great shame on the church in America. They have lost interest in any morality beyond being anti-abortion and anti-gay. Or, to put it in more biblical terms, the “evangelicals” have ceased to value righteousness and justice (both translate the same New Testament word). Just as fundamentally unhealthy is the disregard for truth by which evangelicals have been so uncritical of trump, even though it is clear that he is totally devoid of any concern for honesty or integrity.
For now, the signs of new life in the American church are primarily to be found in mega-churches who tend to foster a self-centered view of the Gospel. They seem to like verses such as Psalm 37:4 (“Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”) while totally neglecting Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34-35 (“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”) I believe by 2018 a new revival of genuine Christianity will have begun to stir in American churches.
Fourth, I believe trump has more than met his match in Putin, who is going to out-manipulate trump very badly and get away with significant gains to Russian strength and territory. Manipulators, after sizing up their prey, tend to choose one of two opening gambits in their game. Either they intimidate or flatter their intended victims. trump and Putin have each chosen to flatter one another. The difference is that trump is a sucker for flattery while Putin is too strong to pay any attention to trump’s flattery, except to the degree that he can use it against trump. By 2018, it will be clear that Putin is a far more powerful leader than trump can even imagine.
Fifth, while is may not yet show up too obviously by 2018, the reaction to trump and the Republicans is going to move America pretty far along the path toward a Bernie Sanders kind of democratic socialism. Sanders’ popularity with the younger generation is the sign of the future. Frankly, America has allowed capitalism and democracy to become so intertwined that capitalism, once a minor subset of the American way, now dominates and strangles the spiritual life of the people. We cannot sustain a society based on capitalism because it has no room for any higher values. By 2018, people like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will have gained a great deal of respect across America. There is a very good chance that Warren will be elected president in 2020.
Finally, though I have no doubt that trump and the Republicans are going to do a great deal of harm to America in the coming year, I remain hopeful and optimistic. I believe very firmly in the sovereignty of God and look for the Lord to raise up new leaders and new ideas and new faith Our Creator is our Hope. . .