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It’s all political. All the time.

At least that’s what it feels like. Whether you voted for Trump or loathe him with every last bit of plasma in every drop of blood in your body, it seems like the promise of “moving past this contentious election season,” is not going to materialize. No doubt, your Twitter feed and your Facebook page are as full as ever with political punditry--much of it well intentioned, only some of it well considered. What are we to do as Christians when there is so much we might want to say, and yet, we’d like to say it in a way that makes a difference instead of just making noise?

Perhaps a look at the negative will point us in a positive direction. Let’s briefly consider seven ways to do political punditry wrong in a polarized world.

(And for the record, I started this post last week, so don’t read the executive order on immigration into every point. This post isn’t about one thing, but about everything that grabs our attention in a social culture built on perpetual outrage.)

1. Always defend your side, no matter what. I have no problem with people who don’t feel the need to comment on every twist and turn of American politics (in fact, may your tribe increase!). But if you are in the habit of making your opinions known, and you never find yourself out of step with your party or your preferred president, then you likely aren’t looking closely enough at the issues--theirs and yours.

We have to be honest with ourselves and ask some hard questions: Is my passion to see the kingdom come and the church grow, or is it mainly to see my side win elections? Do I think revival and spiritual renewal come mainly through political victories? Am I blinded by disgust for the bad guys (whether that’s Fox News, MSNBC, The New York Times, National Review, Hollywood, flyover country, or whatever) that I’ll defend to the death whatever they seem to be against?

2. Be quick to demonize opponents on the other side. We don’t have disagreements anymore; we only have devils. This means that nominee we oppose or that Senator standing in the way of our position is not simply mistaken (according to our principles) but some toxic combination of ignorant, conniving, and fiendish--a mortal threat to everything that is decent in this world.

3. Make no distinction between prudence and principle. Christians are not good at this one. Let’s assume for a moment that most people reading this blog think abortion is wrong, racism is wrong, terrorism is wrong, hating Muslims is wrong, and being cold-hearted toward immigrants and refugees is wrong. Those are principles. The vast majority of conservative Christians will at least pay lip service to all of these things; most actually believe them with sincere earnestness. But what does this mean in terms of policies, executive orders, and legislation? Here there may be honest disagreement--not about what is good and true and beautiful for Christians to do and think, but about what is the best way forward, in light of these convictions, in a constitutional republic of 330 million people.

4. Never acknowledge real world trade-offs. In our virtual worlds, there are always clear-cut decisions with obvious goods and obvious evils. Hence, every political issue is a matter of absolute right and absolute wrong. In the real world--and especially in the real world of governing--there are always trade-offs. We have to judge between competing goods, which means we usually have to give something to gain something. It would go a long way toward a more civilized discourse--and we may actually convince a few people on the other side--if we acknowledged that our views are usually not without some difficulties, even if we consider our “losses” superior to the “losses” we would endure with a different policy or opinion.

5. Only speak and write in the highest rhetorical gear. At some point in the future, you may need the Hitler analogy. Don’t waste it on arcane procedures regarding cloture in the Senate. Not all errors are created equal. Break out the diabolical thesaurus only when the time is right.

6. Don't bother reading up on complex issues. Most of the problems plaguing our country or our world will not be solved by 90 seconds of reflection. We don’t all have to be experts. Sometimes the knee-jerk reaction comes from a place of seasoned wisdom and moral formation. But if there were an easy solution to every problem it would have been tried by now--not because we are all saints striving to love one another, but because we love to be first or would enjoy being famous. Go ahead and read a few articles before posting. Check out the actual statement or text of legislation. And when in doubt, let’s all feel free not to say anything at all (!) about a complicated issue that we’ve been thinking about in between Dude Perfect videos.

7. Go public with your thoughts when you are most hurt and most angry. Be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to get angry. That’s still in the Bible (James 1:19), and it still counts, even in the internet age. Waiting is often the better part of wisdom.

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11 thoughts on “7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World”

  1. doug sayers says:

    A very timely Bible verse! Thanks Kevin. Wise words and that is just about my quota for political discussion in one day.

  2. Noel says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am duly rebuked by it. Grateful yet again for your wisdom and your winsomeness.

  3. Philmonomer says:

    i’d argue that these 7 ways to do political punditry wrong in a polarized world are, in at least some respect, a natural follow-on to the idea that the “Evil one” is out there, corrupting people, acting on their hearts and minds, and causing people to turn away from Christ.

    When you are on the side of God, that must mean the other side is on the side of Satan.

  4. Curt Day says:

    Not sure about how #3 plays out, but the first two ways are checks on how loyal we are to the groups we belong to. Being too loyal to at least some of our groups causes us to be defensive about our positions and to demonize others. That is because too much loyalty to our groups makes us too competitive for our groups to be in charge. Another effect of being too loyal to our own groups is that we tend to oversimplify the problems we address. That oversimplification also causes us to overlook the trade-offs that come with solutions our groups propose.

    Overall, the list is both relevant to today’s world. If anything, we need to reach out to others from other groups in order to share and collaborate with them. Such an approach is far better than waging a permanent king-of-the-hill battle to determine which group will be in control.

  5. John Sullivan says:

    DUDE PERFECT! (is how i feel about your post)

  6. Brian says:

    I have caught myself blindly backing my side.

  7. Dave Anderson says:

    May I add #8? Forget about the gospel and Jesus who gave up the right to be “right” on the cross for the sake of unrighteous sinners.

  8. Martin says:

    This is good advice for political and religious commentaries alike. Can’t we get both sides of a view? Omitting importance substance is not truth. Truth is compromised by omission.

    Nowadays, I find the only source of near non-biased news or commentary is from The Christian Science Monitor. No, I am not a Christian Scientist.

  9. Peter says:

    Let’s say you follow these guidelines and do political punditry correctly? What exactly are you accomplishing in furtherance of preaching the Gospel and making disciples? Do we need to do our best to tidy up the world? Do we need to make the world more accommodating to our culture? Will we make the world more pleasing to God?

  10. Curt Day says:

    Don’t we also have to interact with the world? Don’t we share both society and the whole world with others? And thus don’t we leave an impact with others by either how we speak about these issues or are silent about them? And if we are silent, does our impact honor the Gospel?

  11. Not sure what “Dude Perfect” means but if it reflects total agreement then I am Dude Perfect with Kevin de Young! The Gospel is what matters, and we want Democrats to be saved!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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