David Brooks Aug. 8, 2017, New York Times
Bottum [see below] image fromExcerpt:
[L]et’s look at our moral culture. For most of American history
mainline Protestants — the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and so on —
set the dominant cultural tone. Most of the big social movements, like abolitionism,
the suffragist movement and the civil rights movement, came out of the mainline
As Joseph Bottum wrote in “An Anxious Age,” mainline Protestants created a
kind of unifying culture that bound people of different political views. [JB emphasis] You could be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or atheist, but still you were influenced by certain mainline ideas — the Protestant work ethic, the WASP definition of a gentleman. Leaders from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama hewed to a similar mainline standard for what is decent in public life and what is beyond the pale.
Over the last several decades mainline Protestantism has withered. The country
became more diverse. The WASPs lost their perch atop society. The mainline
denominations lost their vitality.
For a time, we lived off the moral capital of the past. But the election of Trump
shows just how desiccated the mainline code has become. A nation guided by that
ethic would not have elected a guy who is a daily affront to it, a guy who nakedly
loves money, who boasts, who objectifies women, who is incapable of hypocrisy
because he acknowledges no standard of propriety other than that which he feels like
doing at any given moment.
Donald Trump has smashed through the behavior standards that once governed
public life. His election demonstrates that as the unifying glue of the mainline
culture receded, the country divided into at least three blocks: white evangelical
Protestantism that at least in its public face seems to care more about eros than
caritas; secular progressivism that is spiritually formed by feminism,
environmentalism and the quest for individual rights; and realist nationalism that
gets its manners from reality TV and its spiritual succor from in-group/out-group