The mudslinging, name-calling, one-upmanship campaigning was on full display during last night’s first Presidential debate of the election season. Oh, the joy. Whatever views you have about our two contenders, one detail has floated to the surface that, in my opinion, explains much of our current political chaos. This may be so obvious that it almost goes without saying, but in my opinion, the reason why both candidates have a hard time bringing their respective political parties together, let alone attempt to bring our nation together in any semblance of unity, is because of the burgeoning market of appearance. Let me explain.
We live in a culture of restless mobility with more anonymity and yet more visibility than any generation in history. We can “hide” behind an IP address, and yet our actions can be recorded on video like never before. We can have 1,000 “friends” on Facebook and yet have no friends face to face. We can communicate through social media without having any meaningful communication.
With these trends, it’s no wonder that parallel trends emerge as well: hype masters, spin developers, image consultants, makeovers, plastic surgery, etc. Os Guinness writes, “The inner, the real and the unseen are irrelevant in today’s world. All that counts is appearance, and the world of consumerism has lost no time in catering to every need, and then creating even more” (Fool’s Talk, 201).
This, I believe, is the reality of today’s American political climate. Some Americans are afraid of government getting too big and becoming socialistic. So the hype masters and spin developers make this the image of one political party. Other Americans are afraid of an intolerance and even racial prejudice. So the hype masters and spin developers make this the image of the other main political party.
The burgeoning market of appearance is far less concerned with truth than with the image that will capture enough electoral votes to win the White House. And yet most of us simply want to get beyond appearances and discover “the inner, the real, and the unseen.” But is this even possible? Perhaps. Maybe for this election, maybe not. And so, what can we do?
1. Recognize that our current political chaos is a symptom of a deeper, systemic issue, namely the market of appearance and the deprecation of truth. When we lose an unchanging ethos of absolute truth, the market of appearance goes to the highest bidder of image control. The one with the best hype masters and spin developers “trump” all (pun intended).
2. Believe that hope leads to transformation and despair only leads to withdrawal. If we despair and lose hope, we remove ourselves from the republic responsibilities of American citizenship. Hope leads to conviction, conviction to action, and action to transformation. If you want to see our culture and nation transformed from a market of appearance to a market of character, then let hope triumph over despair and action overcome withdrawal.
3. Trust in the sovereignty of God, even if things don’t go the way you want. Jeremiah trusted that God had a plan in allowing Jerusalem to fall according to His judgment against the sins of His people. Yet even in the midst of affliction, Jeremiah wrote, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Living in a culture of fear, chaos, and division may not be the way we would have written the script for America. But the seeds of hope can still be planted in the darkest night, believing that fear can give way to love, chaos can give way to peace, and division can give way to unity.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14).