This was certainly true of Trump. He had all the access to the media but he never controlled the narrative. For all his tweeting, he became the story that would work against his goals and the media checked his progress in disseminating his story and even called out his story to the point where the persona overrode the content. This was certainly true of his presidency and of his first impeachment but it is even more true of the events of January 6 and his second impeachment. The opponents of Trump control the narrative. Protests that turned into riots over the summer were never called an insurrection and were treated sympathetically by the press and many pols. A one day event that did far less physical damage by few people has been compared by some to the Twin Towers terrorist attack and perpetuated lies like the one AOC promoted about fearing for her life in the wake of the protest. Some have even likened the people who marched to the Capitol to the Islamic terrorists in Syria. Those who challenge this narrative are being labelled as co-conspirators and there seems to be little political room to disagree with the narrative the Democrats, the media, and social media have decided is the only story that should be told.
You can disagree with my statements above and I do not intend to make this simply a political post but follow me along for a while. There was a time when Christians controlled their own narrative. Whether because they had influence in the political sphere or a sympathetic audience among the populace or some other reason, the churches controlled their story and how it was told. At some point in time, orthodox Christianity lost control of the narrative. We no longer defined the content or packaged the presentation. Now we live in an era when our opponents, our detractors, and those who claim devotion but digress from the doctrine and practice of the faith control the narrative. I think this, more than anything else, is what it means to live in a post-Christian era.
We do not like in an era like the early church when pagans had not heard the Gospel and encountered the message of Jesus Christ for the first time. Modern day pagans are sure they already know what the Gospel is (even though what they know bears little resemblance to the Scriptures or tradition). They may be rejecting a false characterization of the Gospel but they think they are rejecting the true Gospel. Since we do not control the narrative anymore, we struggle to challenge their claim. Since the media and social media have control of the narrative of Christianity, we are told that the Church is hopelessly misogynistic, racist, homophobic, anti-science, and a host of other things untrue. This narrative is so powerful that some churches, perhaps many, have decided that their only future is to accept what this false narrative says, condemn the Scriptures and tradition for their sins, and fashion a new gospel that is in keeping with the socially and theologically correct and woke perspective of the day. The rest of Christianity is portrayed as a leadership hopelessly out of touch with the people, promoting an oppressive lie that should not be tolerated, and motivated by the desire for money and power.
Some are trying to go along with the media in the hope that they can offer an alternative story -- sort of like the Republicans who never liked Trump but are not ready to impeach him again either. It is a tenuous position more fraught with problems than success. Since our access to media is limited and our brand is already tainted, I am not at all sure that this is a viable option. The media is fully adept at exploiting every crack and weakness -- look at how they manipulate Rome and have fashioned Francis in their image against those who simply think doctrine matters. If Rome, with all its size and deep pockets finds itself a pawn in the hands of those who control the narrative, I am not sure that a small Lutheran body has much of a chance. Think of its concordat with China in which the Vatican gives up the faith to preserve the church. Is that the win we hope to achieve?
So what do we do? The long bantered about Benedict Option addresses this. It does not advocate hiding from the world but it does call us to abandon our attempts to compete on their turf with those who have wrested control of the narrative from us. Our battles are better fought locally as Christian people who confess rightly and live holy lives -- this being the primary domain of our witness. We will not win over societies or change cultures but we will transform the world one soul at a time. This is exactly the time to trust in the promise of the Lord who insists His Word will not return to Him empty handed and His purpose will not be thwarted by devil, principality, or earthly power. This is exactly the time to deal with less angst about the picture of the world as a whole and to be God's man or woman in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, etc... Who knows if the world will pause to notice how much they love one another but that is God's problem and not ours. Even though we cannot reclaim the narrative from the media and our enemies on the larger forum we can restore the truth on a local level -- the truth proclaimed from pulpit, lived out in confession, rejoicing before the altar, and confessed in word and works from the Church into every aspect of our daily lives.
The lesson of Trump is that it really does not matter what you say or do not say if those who control the narrative have decided you are the enemy. We in the Church are not in a political game but neither are we going to make much headway in the drumbeat toward secularism in which the only good Christ is the Christ who stands for nothing more but permission to do as you please and in good conscience. No, it is time for us to stop fighting for control of the narrative on a national scene and working to regain control of our story on the local level. That is the primary place we are called to serve anyway.