Wright on American Politics

This time it’s N.T. Wright, writing on the myth of progress.

Many people, particularly politicians and secular commentators in the press and elsewhere, still live by this myth, appeal to it, and encourage us to believe it. Indeed (if I may digress for a moment), the demise of serious political discourse today consists not least in this, that the politicians are still tying to whip up enthusiasm for their versions of this myth — it’s the only discourse they know, poor things — while the rest of us have moved on. They are, to that extent, like people trying to row a boat toward the shore while the strong tide pulls them further and further out to sea. Because they face the wrong way, they can’t see that their efforts are in vain, and they call out to other boats to join them in their splendid, shore-bound voyage. That is why the relentlessly modernist and progressivist projects that the politicians feel obliged to offer us (“vote for us and things will get better!”) have to be dressed up with the relentlessly postmodernist techniques of spin and hype: in the absence of real hope, all that is left is feelings. Persuasion will not work because we’re never going to believe it. What we appear to need, and therefore what people give us, is entertainment. As a journalist said recently, our politicians demand to be treated like rock stars while our rock stars are pretending to be politicians. Sorting out this mess — which the Christian hope, despite current opinion, is well suited to do — should mean, among many other things, a renewal of genuine political discourse, which God knows we badly need.

              N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, pp. 81-82


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