Tag archives: Politics

The Influence of Social Media on Politics

by Peyton Holliday

February 22, 2019

For most of us, social media has become a routine part of our day-to-day lives here in America. This reality is now taking hold in politics as well. Scrolling through social media pages such as Twitter and Instagram, I have seen videos of candidates and elected officials dancing in their offices, visiting the dentist, drinking beer, and all manner of day-to-day life being shared with the public. With videos posted by Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others, the political spectrum is changing.

I personally don’t want to see a video of a politician going to the dentist—I would rather see a video of them explaining their stance on abortion or border control. I want to know what the candidate stands for on policy instead of how cool of a dance move they can do. We are losing professionalism in the political world. It seems that we are now electing people because they have nice dance moves or seem relatable on an Instagram video. This makes me wonder—how will our future elections be shaped through social media?

In the 1960 election cycle, well before the era of social media, the debates between JFK and Richard Nixon were televised for the first time in American history. The looks, poise, and smooth actions of JFK helped him to win the votes of millions of Americans. The medium of television set a new precedent for an era in which politicians worried about their image as much as their messaging. These televised debates marked the beginning of a new type of political media that would shape the outcome of elections for years to come.

Now, we are in a new era where the political scene is changing again. Americans can now stay up to date on the day-to-day thoughts and actions of political figures through videos, pictures, and posts on social media. The political landscape is becoming more and more based on marketing and image rather than actual policy positions. If you can market yourself better than your opponent, you have a better chance at winning. If your social media page has millions of followers, you can get more attention than appearing on national television. Candidates don’t even have to set up an interview with a television station to get media coverage anymore—if a social media post goes “viral,” it will be all over both television and the internet.

Social media is clearly a useful way to make candidates more visible to the world. Social media is already shaping the outcome of elections. In future elections, social media will undoubtedly begin to play an even bigger role. Similar to what happened in the 1960 election, the actions, online presence, and relatable image of a candidate can hold more sway than their policy positions in the minds of many social media-addicted voters.

Future elections will be shaped by the online presence of the candidates. As for me, I would rather see candidates use social media to present thoughtful positions on policy issues rather than try to be hip.

Peyton Holliday is an intern at Family Research Council.

Think Again: Evangelicals in American Public Life

by Family Research Council

April 3, 2012

USA Today recently published an important opinion piece from Tom Krattenmaker called “Evangelicals seek positive change.” (The title does make one wonder what kind of change we’ve been seeking up until now, but I digress.) The article is important, I believe, not for its times are a changin conclusions, but for its presuppositions about the intersection of evangelicalism and politics.

The crux of the article consists of excerpts from an exchange Krattenmaker had with blogger and author Jonathan Merritt, one of the key expositors of “a new kind of thinking” as Krattenmaker describes it. Quoting Merritt:

Americans are tired of the incivility and the partisan divisiveness on both sides. Regardless of how much longer the culture wars are going to continue, Christians need to transcend the polemical, partisan, power-hungry battles that stymie the common good. If my intuition is wrong and the culture wars continue to rage on, my hope and prayer is that Christians will take a higher road as they seek to be faithful in the public square.”

Christians cannot join the ranks of the politically apathetic. But we aren’t forced to choose a human-formed party with a systemized divide-and-conquer agenda, either. We can stand in the gap and claim loyalty only to Jesus.”

First of all, there’s much to like in Merritt’s thinking. Christians must not be uncivil in private or public life, nor should our politics be strictly partisan. We cannot be politically apathetic and our loyalty is first to Christ. Amen and amen.

On Merritts power hungry battles, Id simply add the distinction that conservatives are not seeking to wrest power from one party and transfer it to another. Rather, youll most often find us trying to wrest power from the federal government and return it to the proper subsidiaries: the family, the church, the people, etc.

Gods Work in Americas Public Life

The context of the piece is about how a new generation of evangelicals are unshackling themselves from partisanship generally and the GOP specifically. Krattenmakers sights are trained on the “religious right” when he describes Merritts thinking as indicative of a challenge mounted against the notion that electoral politics is the way to do God’s work in American public life.” [Empahsis mine]

This is key. Krattenmaker (and Merritt?) presupposes that evangelicals who are politically conservative see politics as the way to do Gods work in Americans public life. Having worked for an organization that deals with evangelicals in public policy for nearly six years, I cant name one of my 75 colleagues who believes this.

Most of us who labor at organizations like FRC do so because weve been called vocationally into the realm of public policy. And for better or worse, the values derived from our faith have political fallout. (Thanks Andrew Walker for that gem.)

I and most of my colleagues are family focused and see raising our children as our most important contribution to American public life. And in addition to our day jobs at FRC, many of us are involved in ministries in our local communities that serve the church and the common good. This would include everything from building orphanages in Latin America, to mentoring at-risk students, to distributing food to the needy.

New Thinking vs Old Thinking

In order for a “new kind of thinking” on evangelical political engagement to emerge, the writers must presuppose that a pervasive “old kind of thinking” on evangelical political engagement exists. Well, does it?

Krattenmaker seems to think so:

Seeing many of Christianity’s most ardent and visible followers caught up in the mean-spirited, truth-demolishing aspects of this is one of the more discomforting features of today’s politics.

And yet, as David French has pointed out, you needn’t look farther than the cumulative budgets of evangelical poverty and disaster relief organizations (well over $2 billion) as compared to the budgets of “culture war” organizations (less than $200 million) to dispel the myth that evangelicals are only, or even primarily, fixated on the political as the way to do God’s work in America’s public life.

Over at Mere Orthodoxy, Andrew Walker cuts to the chase:

I would like to know with some degree of specificity who it is that serves as Mr. Merritts foil in the culture war. What pastors are advocating Republican politics? What churches are adopting policies and positions that mirror the Republican Party or the Heritage Foundation?

The questions remain outstanding.

Excess is the Exception, Not the Rule

If the new kind of thinking Krattenmaker and Merritt are describing really means that evangelicals should not be beholden to any particular political party—then we say, hear, hear. FRC president Tony Perkins has reiterated his conviction time and again that Christians should vote their values and not the party line.

Certainly there have been excesses on the right where evangelicals have taken a stand in the public square. Theres the inopportune rhetoric, the occasional majoring on the minors, and our tendency to be outraged at instead of brokenhearted with our culture generally. There is no effort without failure. If my own life is representative of the whole, then there is near constant need to own up to mistakes and make them right wherever we can.

But as Walker contends, these excesses are the exception rather than the rule, and they are certainly no more endemic to conservatism than to liberalism. So on this score, let’s proceed with sober judgment and caution:

Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left. C.S. Lewis, from The Worlds Last Night.

A Consistent, Redeeming Presence

In the end, I think what Merritt and other emerging voices are rejecting is a stereotype that no longer existsif in fact it ever did. And I share every bit in Merritts discomfort with it.

Ill wholeheartedly affirm with Merritt and Krattenmaker the idea that Christians have one foot in God’s kingdom and one in the world. Ours is a dual citizenship. But it is an entire foot in each. Not simply a toenail in the latter. Yes, Christians must not trust in princes. But neither should we flee the field.

We are after something deeper than partisanship to be sure; it is a consistent, redeeming presence in American public life. We seek to be the little yeast working through the dough, causing the whole batch to rise.

Hard But Necessary Choices in 2012

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 22, 2011

It is human nature to want to avoid hard choices, and to get angry with those who would compel us to make them.

In a new piece in Forbes, Bill Frezza wisely observes that the era of what he calls “both/and” is drawing to a crashing close: “The era of both/and was a magical time when the elected representatives running city, state, and national governments never had to make hard choices. To be sure, partisanship wasnt eliminated, but political compromise could always be found. This allowed incumbent politicians from both parties to deliver enough goodies to their constituents to assure themselves reelection.”

Whenever a politician suggests that people be allowed to invest some of their Social Security Trust Fund money into private accounts, or that private sector solutions to health care might be preferable to federally-directed ones (which solve nothing, ultimately, except the unemployment of eager bureaucrats), or that Washingtons menagerie of departments, programs, agencies, and line items be streamlined into some form of reasonable coherence, he is vilified as heartless, a tool of big business, a mendacious and reactionary primitive.

Re-election is a politicians stock in trade. To be a statesman, one must have an ample quantity of moral courage and the wisdom to know when to act boldly. Thus, given that few politicians have the strength and insight to behave in a statesmanlike way, we can anticipate that desirable change will be at best incremental. And, despite our protestations, we want it that way.

We want governments benefits without its costs. We want its protections without its intrusions. We want its presence in our need and its exclusion in our perceived abundance. We are kidding ourselves, which is to say we are human.

As Frezza argues, we are now at the beginning of an era in which refusing to make hard choices is no longer possible:

… in bad economic times tax revenue craters, leaving massive shortfalls as government spending not only fails to decline alongside revenues, but goes up to pay for safety net expenses, which more people tap into as they are left out of work. This has happened both in California and at the federal level. Even more threatening than these oscillations is the fact that the underlying trend line in federal revenue has gone flat as federal spending entered an unprecedented period of exponential growth. To top it off, the Baby Boomer generation has started its massive wave of retirements, calling in the chits on those unfunded entitlement liabilities. And just when you thought things couldnt get any worse, GDP growth hit its deepest and broadest rut since the 1930s, where it remains mired for the foreseeable future.

We resent it when policymakers, speaking to us like adults, offer necessary and painful choices about policy priorities. Thats why we have long lived in an era of self-delusion and rewarded those who have given it to us.

We cannot abort our progeny and anticipate economic growth. We cannot experience liberty, in its fullness, if we disavow a willingness to fail. We cannot corrode the family unit through divorce, cohabitation, promiscuity, and homosexual unions and say we care about our childrens future. We cannot secularize our society without destroying the unspoken Judeo-Christian moral consensus that always has been the firm foundation of our republic.

It doesnt take a Ph.D. in economics to understand that borrowing from the future will increasingly become not just inadvisable but outright impossible. The future has arrived, and it isnt pretty, Frezza says. He is right.

Americans have long been a brave people. We like to talk about the heroic conduct of our armed forces, and well we should. But just as our men and women in uniform show courage in their sphere, can we show it in ours? It is now time for us to see if we can still summon the personal virtue and political courage without which no economy, or nation, can long endure.

This will mean hard choices. Let us steel ourselves to them, with the concurrent commitment that through the non-governmental institutions of family, church, synagogue, not-for-profit charities, professional associations and small and large corporate enterprise, we will address the needs our sagging Leviathan cannot.

Jesus the Economist? Or Something Else?

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 4, 2011

Christianity asserts that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical person who lived in the space-time continuum. He had a physical body, felt hunger, had full use of His senses, and worked for years as a skilled laborer.

The New Testament also claims that He was eternal God in the flesh, the Savior of the world Whose atoning death and justifying resurrection are the basis of the redemption of all who will trust in Him for forgiveness.

These propositions are striking enough without the other claims being made about Jesus in the political world, which are many. Consider some recent headlines:

Occupy London are true followers of Jesus, even if they despise religion

What Would Jesus Drive?

Best-selling socialist publication of all time remains the Bible

Jesus was a Communist” - new movie by Matthew Modine,

From Jesus Socialism to Capitalist Christianity,

Marx, Capitalism, and Jesus

What Would Jesus Hack?

Was Jesus an Early Applied Economist?

For the record: Jesus affirmed the right to own property and encouraged honest labor. Several of the disciples were in a fishing business that included ownership of several boats, indicating that they were appropriately ambitious and hard-working (Luke 5:11).

Also, it is a tribute to Jesus enduring, penetrating, and inescapable power that political philosophers, economists, and even entertainers are so eager to nab Him for their agendas.

However, my point is not to get into a discussion about Jesus and His teachings concerning business, taxes, or economics generally. Rather, it is this: Should we not summon the moral courage to deal with His overt and profound claims before we wander off into asking if He would drive a Prius, or if He would support budget reductions? At what point do such musings become trivial, even irreverent?

It is wholly honorable to consider the implications of living a Christ-filled life in contemporary times. Yet the effort to claim Jesus for an ideological agenda or to capture Him as some kind of pre-Marxian redistributionist is ludicrous in itself, and also keeps us from the main issue: Was He the God-Man, the Lord of all, filled with grace and truth, or, as one writer has put it, just a carpenter gone bad?

Shouldnt we be asking the main questions first? Remember, Jesus never said, Follow Me, and become a socialist. Rather, His question was, Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15).

Whats your answer?

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