Character is destiny. Anyone can fake integrity for a while, but without character, it is not sustainable. Basic building blocks must be in place to become a person of character. Early in life you need to have been given a sense of self-worth and confidence in the safety of your existence. You also need parents who have enough character to delay their own gratification to meet your needs. It is obvious Donald Trump did not have the building blocks necessary to become a fully functioning adult. He never had a chance. More than likely, his narcissism can be placed at the feet of his harsh and demanding father.
With Josh Hawley, it might be a different story. In Friday’s New York Times, David Brooks wrote a scathing op-ed in which he said, “Hawley didn’t just own the libs, he gave permission to dark forces he is too childish, privileged, and self-absorbed to understand.” Ouch. Hawley’s mentor, the venerable Missouri Republican John Danforth, said mentoring Hawley was “the biggest mistake I have ever made in my life.” This has not been a good week for Josh Hawley. There is nothing wrong with ambition. I have always been a person of ambition, though I have noticed the world was far more accepting of my ambition when I was a man than it is now that I am a woman. But ambition without character will sooner or later lead to a great fall.
Cancel culture defines a person by the worst thing he or she has ever done or said. None of us should be defined by the worst thing we have ever done or said. We all screw up. There were times when my own ambition was blind. I cringe when I think of those occasions. They are never apparent in real time. Only in the rearview mirror do you see that we all have the capacity for self-absorbed, privileged, and childish behavior. I hope this is a tipping point for Hawley. Will he experience the kind of blessed and necessary defeat that forges character, or will he be more like Ted Cruz, who has already demonstrated his true and abiding nature? Time will tell.
One of the most damaging realities about Hawley, Cruz, and many of the others who have bowed down to Trump, is that they identify as evangelical Christians. During my last 25 years in the evangelical camp, I lectured frequently across the nation on the subject of postmodernism. Evangelicals thought postmodernism was evil and that we needed to return to the modern age, as if the modern age had been with us since the time of Christ. In reality, the modern age was about 500 years old.
I was attacked for saying postmodernism is a good corrective to the modern age. One of the biggest complaints that evangelicals made against postmodernism was that it created a world in which truth was nothing but a social construct. At the extremes of postmodernism, I actually shared their concerns. But in my lectures I said that truth has always been slippery. There is no such thing as objective truth, because humans always bring their own bias to any observation. But I also said that through rigorous inter-subjective discipline, we can get very, very close to something resembling objective truth. My friend Phil Kenneson at Milligan University helped me understand that in an excellent chapter he wrote for the book Christian Apologetics in a Postmodern World entitled, “There’s No Such Thing as Objective Truth, and It’s a Good Thing Too.”
At its extremes, postmodernism has ushered in a confusing world that says all truth is social construct, what a group of people arbitrarily decide is true. I frequently get in trouble with some in the world of sociology because I do not believe gender is purely a social construct. I believe we have a pre-disposition, before experience, to specific gendered behaviors. That is not a popular viewpoint among those who believe everything is a social construct, including gender. I believe there is something close to objective truth. Which brings me back to the election.
What Hawley and Cruz did on Wednesday was capitulate to the notion of truth as anything but social construct. They made their objections based on no actual facts, but only on the reality that people believe the election was stolen. That’s all it took for them to object. There was no examination of the veracity of those beliefs, or their source. Their source is clearly a president pedaling lies to bolster his sagging ego, and television networks like Fox and Newsmax pedaling lies for profit and power. Hawley is extremely well educated. He should know exactly what is going on. I must assume that blind ambition has made him, well, blind.
When it comes to the nature of truth, the very evangelicals who demonized postmodernism have embraced it in the most damaging of ways. They have embraced a president who has made over 20,000 false or misleading claims. With Trump’s extreme narcissism, I would expect nothing different from him. It takes a lot of lies to prop up an extremely fragile ego. With media titans Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, and Christopher Ruddy, and their desire for power and profit, I would expect nothing different. With Ted Cruz’s previous behavior, I would not expect anything different. With Josh Hawley, however, I am surprised. I mean, this guy clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. A lot of damage can be done by blind ambition.
My mother’s extreme narcissism made me question the safety of the universe and question my own self-worth. My father’s love and grandmother’s devotion saved me from the worst effects of that unstable environment. Still, I am aware of my flaws. I can be too ambitious. I can be self-referential and self-serving. Thank goodness I have surrounded myself with people who will tell me the truth. I hope Josh Hawley listens to John Danforth. It is not too late for him to yoke his ambition to a higher cause than his own self-aggrandizement. We will see what happens. Character is destiny.