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How America Got Mean

Set adrift into the vast expanse of amorality, where do people turn? Where within modern society can one find a moral compass that imbues life with meaning? For some, the overwhelming choice made is politics, which, like any idol, consumes everything it touches.

If you put people in a moral vacuum, they will seek to fill it with the closest thing at hand. Over the past several years, people have sought to fill the moral vacuum with politics and tribalism. American society has become hyper-politicized.

According to research by Ryan Streeter, at the American Enterprise Institute, lonely young people are seven times more likely to say they are active in politics than young people who aren’t lonely. For people who feel disrespected, unseen, and alone, politics is a seductive form of social therapy. It offers them a comprehensible moral landscape: The line between good and evil runs not down the middle of every human heart, but between groups. Life is a struggle between us, the forces of good, and them, the forces of evil.

If you are asking politics to be the reigning source of meaning in your life, you are asking more of politics than it can bear. Seeking to escape sadness, loneliness, and lawless disorder through politics serves only to drop you into a world marked by fear and rage, by a sadistic striving for domination. Sure, you’ve left the moral vacuum—but you’ve landed in the pulverizing destructiveness of moral war.

Possible Preaching Angle

1) Church, conflict in; Disagreements; Could we retitle this illustration “How the Church Got Mean?” Have church members allowed taking political sides to divide their unity in Christ? Have we changed our cornerstone from Christ to a political leader we hope can set America right? 2) Arguments; Politics - When the moral anchor of biblical Christianity is abandoned then the tyranny of politics can take its place. People begin to fight political battles with outrage, exaggeration, and censorship. But life is far more than politics and perhaps the revolutionary message of Christianity can still be found by the walking wounded of the world.


David Brooks, “How America Got Mean,” The Atlantic (September, 2023); Todd Brewer, “The Tyranny of the Political,” Mockingbird (8/18/23)

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