J.D. Vance and the great challenge of Christian malice

In August, the American Conservative published a fascinating profile of Vance. With great nuance and insight, it described the escalating American culture wars, and the sense that many Americans felt that they were fighting for their beliefs and their very way of life. But the last paragraph contained these ominous words, especially coming from a Christian politician: “I think our people hate the right people,” Vance said.

With those words, I believe Vance reflected one of the most prevalent spirits of the times. Do we wonder why animosity dominates our discourse? Do we wonder why so many people were ready and willing to receive a message that declared even decency itself a “secondary value”?

The real crisis in American Christian political engagement isn’t truly over Christian positions. Opposition to abortion, to take one example, is vital and just. And there is ample room for good-faith Chrsitian disagreement over the proper response to American challenges ranging from race to economics to immigration to sexuality and to the pandemic.

The real crisis is instead a crisis of the heart. Our orthodoxy is undermined by our actions, and our actions spring forth from the deepest parts of our being. At a time of rising antipathy, a Christian political community should blaze forth with a radiant countercultural embrace of kindness and grace. Instead, all too many of us have forgotten a fundamental truth. There are no “right people” to hate.