A cartoon of a dog sitting in a room, calmly declaring “This is fine” while engulfed in flames, has circulated widely on social media and become the symbol of 2016.

Our public discourse has often included hand-wringing and outrage, but these days, we’re tempted to despair more than ever. As the US presidential campaign took a series of particularly absurd turns, the #lolnothingmatters hashtag rose to prominence among journalists, political operatives, and Christian leaders alike. One writer looked back on the 2016 Republican National Convention as a “raging dumpster fire,” that is, an irredeemable situation.

The metaphor was co-opted by up-and-coming Nebraska senator Ben Sasse in a press release: “Sen. Sasse will not be attending the convention and will instead take his kids to watch some dumpster fires across the state, all of which enjoy more popularity than the current front-runners.”

Meanwhile, the candidates model the worst of political discourse. Trump is largely known for his name-calling, while Clinton lobs Twitter taunts like “Delete your account.” And all this preceded the final stretch of the election cycle, which took a sudden turn into a rhetorical and moral abyss.

CT readers may not be immersed in the world of Twitter or glued to 24-hour news channels, but we can nonetheless be shaped by these media. In an election with Twitter as its backbone, existential angst has become a national posture. Every day a new headline proclaims some gaffe, tragedy, or scandal, free of foresight or historical context. Breathing in this nihilistic pollution day in and day out can inadvertently cause a kind of cancer in us as well.

How are Christians called to breathe in this atmosphere?

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