…just as Michael Brown served as an avatar for many minority communities who were tired of being ignored, Trump is an avatar for many rural and exurban whites who feel the same way. Thus, rejection of, or even criticism of, Trump for any specific issue (e.g., Trump’s false implication that Philadelphia Eagles players kneeled during the National Anthem and disrespected the flag) can be ignored by his supporters, because they perceive an attack on the president to be, in some way, an attack on their legitimate demands for cultural and political attention. Proving that a given claim about Trump is true, or that a given claim of Trump’s is false, will not change most of his supporters’ minds.

Source: National Review

Robert Driscoll’s observation tracks as well with my experience in Madison since the 2016 presidential election. Living as they do in self-consciously politically and socially progressive city, many Madison residents were (and indeed still are) deeply unsettled by the election of Donald Trump.

While the content of their concern is different, the affective tone is markedly similar to what I heard from conservative friends during the eight years of the Obama administration. Whether on the Left or Right, both groups have had in recent years an experience of feeling ignored and marginalized.

Most of those I know here in Madison and through my involvement with the Acton Institute are better educated, wealthier and so socially more secure than those who inspired Driscoll’s essay. For those I know (again, on both the Left and the RIght), marginalization is a new–and decidedly unwelcome–feeling.

Uncomfortable and unsettling though the experience is psychologically, spiritually feeling marginalized or ignored is potentially a very good thing. It is precisely in those moments of felt homelessness in the universe that we are most prone to turn to God.

Yes, this initial turn to God is more from desperation than faith. Nevertheless, represents an openness to grace. As such, it also represents an evangelical opportunity.

Pundits have chronicled the loss of religious faith in America. Some have greeted this with enthusiasm, while others see it as a reason for concern. Me? I see the data as a starting point.

What really matters is the growing sense of marginalization afflicting not only the urban and rural poor but also those in the middle and upper classes. The Church has always existed as that alternate society that allowed men and women to find the kind of community and sense of belonging that both the family and civil society promise but can never provide because the belong to this world.

The feelings of increased marginalization are real. What matters though is what these feelings me.

I would suggest that these feelings represent the growing desire for a wholesome spiritual life lived in the midst of the community of faith which is the Church.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory