I heard a story recently about a fairly well-known evangelical figure who was confronted about public statements he had made in writing and interviews. A fellow believer met and reasoned with him for several hours, explaining that he believed the leader had deceived his audience. When the facts became overwhelming, this influential evangelical conceded that he had been playing fast and loose with facts. However, since his overall message was true and important, he reasoned, it was justifiable to fudge the details in order to motivate voters to make the right decision.
You’re wondering who this evangelical leader is, but in a sense it doesn’t matter, because he could be just about anybody. The belief that American voters must be manipulated rather than reasoned with if we want to institute any meaningful change is endemic. But this belief is essentially nihilist because it makes all political discourse a matter of coercion, a matter of who is doing the coercing and to what ends. I call this nihilist because it makes power, not truth, goodness, or beauty, the foundation of politics.
Followers of Christ are called to “hope all things.” According to Paul, this is one of the defining features of love. If this is true, then for Christians, there is no room for nihilist politics. We are obligated to treat our neighbors as people who deserve honest appeals. This does not mean that all political discourse must be highly rational. There is a place for appeals to emotion, as well as to beauty. Don’t think I am denouncing all political ads that appeal to our emotions. While I do think that our politics could do with a great deal more logic and reason, I reject the idea that only what is rational is relevant ...1