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There Is No Litmus Test for President

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There is only conviction and thinking and prayer and conversation.

And even that conversation will vary within your community.

I’m reminded of the paradoxes of the old culture wars. A couple decades ago when politics were just as heated and dialogue just as rare, Mrs. Kirkistan and I lived in a rough section of South Minneapolis. People of faith in our community—I’ll call them Christians—routinely voted “for” Democrats. Given the particular demographic quirks of the area, it was easy to understand why those candidates did better. For a variety of reasons (economic, housing, vision, spiritual) we ended up moving miles away. We eventually found ourselves at a large suburban church where the assumption was that everyone voted “for” Republicans. Mind you, much of this was never said aloud. It was all just assumed.

After all, Republicans were anti-abortion and that’s where God hangs out—right?

After all, Democrats cared for the poor and that’s where God hangs out—right?

The danger of litmus-test thinking is that it promises some clear, unassailable answer: the candidate is this or the candidate isn’t this. Case closed.

I argue that leadership is and always has been about more than one thing. There is no litmus test because the human condition is complex and society and culture are exponentially complex. And while I’m certain God is all about creating life, the Creator is also bent on sustaining life, so listening to the poor, the widow and the orphan take up a lot of column-inches in our common, ancient text. But even those are not litmus-like tests, because which party will actually do those things best?

I’m hoping the faith communities around the country will have conversations that help their members vote not according to some mandate from a culture-wars war-room, but instead according their growing convictions from dealing with texts, from conversation and from prayer.

It’s time the church led by being counter-culture.

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Image via thisisn’thappiness

Written by kirkistan

October 25, 2012 at 10:41 am

The Decline of Fact in Our National Conversation (and How to Avoid Despair)

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Louder Preaching is Not the Answer

It seems wrong to call it a national conversation when we mostly monologue at each other. And most of our monologues are meant only to reinforce the already-believers listening. Republican Paul Ryan’s recent string of verbal deceptions was a stunningly brazen example of half-facts delivered with full-on force—but both sides are equally guilty. That both Democrats and Republican play loose with facts is neither a surprise nor anything new. So it has always been: we persuade each other by twisting facts in our favor and choosing not to reveal the truths that would balance our cherry-picked facts.

It is natural (though not necessary) to become cynical about our national exchange of monologues. Recognizing that any speaker is likely persuading you with only half the relevant facts is probably not a bad strategy to adopt for the next three months—or the next 30 years. It is also easy to see how this strategy only accelerates skepticism about the official word of any authority. And so “Question Authority” returns as a relevant bumper sticker, several decades later. Or was it ever out of style?

How to Avoid Despair and Reject Cynicism

Remaining skeptical of facts presented as truth is a good starting point. And perhaps seeking a generous spirit that questions facts even while looking behind the facts to ask what broader point the monologist is making. But we must speak up and expect dialogue rather than more indoctrination.

More preaching will not do.

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Image Credit: Volkskrant Magazine via coverjunkie/thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

September 12, 2012 at 10:01 am

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