The Iowa caucuses and the Emmy Awards: How can God redeem our crisis in cultural confidence?

The Iowa caucuses and the Emmy Awards: How can God redeem our crisis in cultural confidence? January 16, 2024

Donald Trump won the Iowa caucuses last night, with Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley coming in second and third. Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out of the race and endorsed Mr. Trump.

However, it’s too soon to know what this means for the larger presidential campaign.

Iowa Republicans selected Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012, and Ted Cruz in 2016—none of whom went on to win the presidential nomination. By contrast, Ronald Reagan lost Iowa in 1980 but won the election; George H. W. Bush did the same in 1988 and Donald Trump in 2016.

The larger state of US politics is in question as well. According to Pew Research Center:

  • Just 4 percent of Americans say the political system is working extremely or very well.
  • Just 16 percent say they trust the federal government always or most of the time.
  • Sixty-five percent say they always or often feel “exhausted” when thinking about politics; just 10 percent say they always or often feel “hopeful.”

While Iowans were braving the cold, the 75th annual Emmy Awards aired last night as Succession and The Bear each took home six awards. At least, we think they did. Since we now know that ESPN employed a fraudulent scheme in recent years to acquire more than thirty Emmys for sportscasters who were ineligible to receive them, we’re left to wonder.

How fully do you trust our political system, institutions, and leaders?

How much do you trust what you see reported by the media?

I often say that God redeems all he allows. How could he redeem our crisis in cultural confidence?

The Taj Mahal and a balsa wood outhouse

Commentator Jonah Goldberg described our “post-truth” society:

Certainty is impossible folly. Knowledge isn’t about facts, but perspective. What we think are truths—or Truths with a capital T—are really plot points in stories we tell to ourselves. Ideals are really just instruments for attaining or maintaining power. Morality is made, not discovered. . . .

All truth is contextual, all ideals are instruments. The only thing that is real—i.e. real enough—is what you accomplish with will.

(Goldberg disagrees with what he describes, but I consider his cultural depiction to be tragically accurate.)

It is an absolute (and ironically contradictory) truth claim of our postmodern society that all truth claims are subjective. Goldberg refutes this “claim” well:

Slavery is bad. Rape is bad. Cruelty for its own sake is evil. Liberty and the rule of law are good. Now, I believe these and similar things as matters of both capital T and lowercase t truth. But even if these are only lowercase truths, or even “personal truths,” they can be defended with reason, facts, data, and appeals to rightly formed consciences.

In other words, even if all standards and ideals are in some sense “socially constructed,” that doesn’t mean that all social constructions are morally or empirically equal. The Taj Mahal is constructed and so is a balsa wood outhouse. We can value one more than the other. The right to a fair trial is a social construct and so is child sacrifice. I’m happy to privilege the former over the latter.

Here’s the problem: however persuasive you and I find his reasoning, many for whom it is intended will not. Many secular people want truth to be personal so they can have their personal truth. They want morality to be subjective so they can do what they want to do.

How, then, can we help people experience the One who is the Truth?

State trooper saves girl in frigid pond

Dan Marburger, the high school principal in Perry, Iowa, died Sunday. He was critically injured earlier this month when he put himself in harm’s way to protect his students from a shooter.

In much better news, a Vermont state trooper named Michelle Archer recently plunged into a frigid pond, swam to an eight-year-old girl who had fallen through the ice, then swam back to shore with her. The girl has since made a complete recovery.

No student whose life was saved by their principal will ever doubt his love for them. Nor will the girl saved by Michelle Archer wonder if the state trooper is committed to her calling.

Similarly, a powerful way we can persuade skeptics to turn to Christ as their truth is when they see the difference he makes when we make him our truth. When we experience his incarnational love, the fact that he came to us when we could not come to him, the grace with which he pursues us and the mercy with which he forgives and cares for us, we become the change we want our world to encounter.

Experiencing God’s grace should change our lives in ways that demonstrate the transformation of our hearts. We do not earn grace, but we do exhibit its results.

God’s word assures us:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

At the same time, we are told:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (v. 10).

Tim Keller expressed it this way: “Religion says, ‘I obey—therefore I’m accepted.’ The gospel says, ‘I’m accepted—therefore I obey.’”

“God has been trying to find me”

How can we persuade a “post-truth” culture that Jesus is the Truth we all need most?

By experiencing his grace and then responding with grateful service to our Lord and our neighbor.

God’s word teaches: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Because translates a Greek word meaning “since” or “as a result.” Here we discover a simple fact that changes our lives and our culture:

Stay faithful to the last word you heard from God and open to the next. The more we experience the love of Jesus, the more our love for others will lead them to our Lord.

So, here’s the question: When last did the love of Christ change your life? When last did you encounter the living Lord Jesus in a transforming way? If it’s been a while, know that the fault is not his.

Henri Nouwen observed:

For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?”

And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by  God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.

Will you let him find you today?

NOTE: Our new Lenten devotional is now available. Request your copy today of Awaken My Heart so you can begin its daily readings on February 14—which happens to be both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday this year.

Tuesday news you need to know

Quote for the day

“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves us will never be alone. It will always be accompanied by good works.” —Hugh Whelchel

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!