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Current Conversation: 
Reforming Political Discourse 

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Current Conversation:  Reforming Political Discourse

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The Particulars of Political Persuasion

The Weight and Power of Ethos

My conversation partner Dr. Jeff VanDerWerff invited me to comment on “the ideal balance or proper relationship between logos, pathos and ethos.” A good challenge, sir. I do have some opinions in this regard.

First, an argument with no logos should be viewed skeptically. Logos is an appeal to our minds, to our sense of rationality. If a political speaker fails to engage our intellect through the fair use of facts, he or she may not understand an issue well enough to explain things properly. In August I attended an event with 2018 Democratic candidates. Some of them talked in such generalities that I doubted the depth of their understanding about certain issues. Others were able to provide more nuanced explanations and proposals. A shallow understanding is not something I want in my elected officials.

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A Work in Progress

How evangelicals act in public life is, in the end, what really matters.  Efforts to “take back America” or “Make America Great Again” rather than be the church that exemplifies a new way of being human seem far more typical today in the hue and cry that characterizes the culture wars.  It is counterproductive, to say the least, if those ostensibly working on behalf of God’s kingdom do so by means that fail to correspond with the message of Jesus.  As N.T. Wright observes, “it is no good announcing love and peace if [one] makes angry, violent war to achieve it.”   This is no less true when it comes to the culture wars.  These figurative battles matter, not the least because politics is meant to prevent literal shooting wars (which are preceded by culture wars gone wrong), but how one fights matters too.  The church, a key institution for cultivating the virtue necessary in this grand experiment called American democracy, is not currently up to the task.  It has been rendered ineffective and irrelevant as the result of both external forces and internal heresies.  Bad religion has contributed to bad politics.  For the sake of the state as well as society, the church must first get its own house in order.

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Whad'Ya Know

To borrow from the title of my conversation partner’s blog post, I’m “hard pressed” to find many disagreements with her thoughtful commentary, which is an encouraging consequence, or at least, should be.  Right?  Finding common ground is a good thing, isn’t it?  Then, again, I suppose not everyone would be happy to hear a Republican and Democrat agreeing about something.  A certain skepticism would likely arise at this discovery.  Why?  Well, there must be more to the story—so goes the suspicion these days—which reminds me of a tale I haven’t told for a while, but seems worth recounting now.

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Beyond Confirmation Bias

Given the egregious nature of both video segments, I found little in Dr. Jeff VanDerWerff’s (JVW’s) response with which to disagree. Below you will find me elaborating on several of his comments and questioning one of them.

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Hard Pressed on Every Side

My assigned task is to respond to the clips from CNN and Fox News—to “analyze the current dismal state of political discourse.” Watching these two videos reminded me of why I spend so little time watching network “news.” There are so many disturbing aspects to these clips that it is hard to know where to begin. Whether these exchanges even fall under the term “political discourse” is up for debate. Merriam Webster defines discourse as a “verbal interchange of ideas.” The CNN clip might fit into that category. But neither clip fits the archaic definition: “the capacity of orderly thought or procedure.” Definitely not.

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Without Question, It's Worse

Despite all appearances to the contrary, hope remains.  There is no good reason, it seems to me, more of us shouldn’t heed the guidance provided by Jeremiah 29 and seek the peace and prosperity of the “city” by living in the midst of those who do not share our faith, yet serving them faithfully nonetheless. Evangelical followers of Jesus might increasingly feel like aliens or foreigners in our own land, but given our status as sojourners—not to mention citizens of heaven—should this matter?  Must we demand to take our country back (whatever that means) or do we simply live into a new reality as exiles actively awaiting the redemption and recreation of all things? 

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News Reports

Here we have two news reports.

Report number one:

Report number two:

Topic #1: Talking Past each Other or Worse

In preparation for a conversation about the possibility of a “Christian Approach to Political Discourse” (subtopic A2), we will first analyze the current dismal state of political discourse, as illustrated by the reactions of two conversation partners to two reports (presented below) on a recent political news story: One report from a left-leaning commentator and one report from a right-leaning commentator

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