Basket of deplorables. What an odd phrase that Hillary Clinton chose to use. She was probably exhausted from fighting pneumonia. If there was ever any question about whether our entire nation is a basket of deplorables, it has been answered by the way we responded to an elderly woman getting sick and almost fainting after a ridiculous work schedule. Not an ounce of sympathy or genuine concern for her well-being. Just another excuse to attack her. Saying that we’re a basket of deplorables shouldn’t be surprising or offensive to Christians. The one thing that should distinguish Christians is that we know we’re deplorable. are not better than other people. We just know that we’re wrong and we know that we’re loved.
All of us are the basket of deplorables. Progressives tend to be good about talking about the idea of collective responsibility, but not as good about owning our share of that responsibility. The main lesson that we need to learn from this toxic election season is that all of us are responsible for this mess. Sin has always been a team sport. And the Bible has always recognized it as such. When Israel sins in the Old Testament, they are punished as a nation. Even worse, when their kings sin, their nation is punished collectively by God, perhaps because kings are simply living out the toxicity that pervades their entire society. The New Testament mostly refers to sin as a dehumanizing system in which we are all trapped. The idea that sin occurs in neatly individualized blame is an Enlightenment lie.
We are all part of shaping the national conversation and market that incentivizes toxic demagoguery and destroys the possibility of authentic collaborative problem-solving. Bloggers like me have an even greater share of responsibility because we know that we will strike gold if we can get a think piece posted on the latest outrage within a six hour window. Nothing is more deliciously addictive than ridiculing the despised other we define ourselves against, whether they’re libtards or redneck trash. It’s the nature of conversations and markets that they are shaped by their participants until they take on a life of their own and start reshaping their participants in their image.
So what can we do to reshape the toxic conversation? I often presume that if people only knew The Truth, they would change. That often means that I fill up my social media with every scandal I come across that proves whatever ideological point I think other people are in denial about. But whenever I see people doing the same thing with the “truths” of the other side, I just roll my eyes. It doesn’t really matter whether they’re actually true or not. It’s simply impossible to influence me by spamming my facebook feed with propaganda from my ideological opponents.
I’ve been teaching my book in a Sunday school class at a local Methodist church. We covered the first two chapters this past Sunday: “Worship not Performance” and “Mercy not Sacrifice.” I wonder if the best way to resist our society’s toxicity and climb out of the basket of deplorables is simply to practice worship and mercy the best we can in our daily lives. It seems so unheroic, but it’s the best form of resistance I can come up with. I’m not saying don’t vote, don’t protest, don’t call out injustice. But start by cultivating a heart of worship and mercy so that everything we do comes from a place of love.
I’m sure that sounds too kumbaya or something. But I do think my greatest freedom and power resides in my awareness that I am a basket of deplorable. I don’t have to be an incorrigible douchebag if someone points out my mistakes. I am wrong and I am loved by God. That seems like the best place to start.