I’ve been expecting a reply to an email I sent a few days ago. Suspecting the reply may have fallen into the black-hole of my “junk” inbox, I went searching. While I didn’t find the reply I was looking for, what I did find gave me the spark for writing this post.
My junk box was full of political newsletters. Over the years as I’ve contributed to candidates or filled out surveys I’ve been added to more than a few subscription lists, and most of them end up being relegated to my “junk” box. Today, I randomly clicked on two or three of the newsletters out of pure curiosity and they all shared one glaring similarity: ridicule of political or television personalities. They all read like an America’s Most Wanted list. In fact, one of the newsletters was entitled “The 5 Worst Liars in the Media,” and went on to list the names of talking-heads one might see on cable news. Without a doubt, there are bad actors in American politics and the media and most Americans are sick of being lied to by self-aggrandizing experts, elites and all the rest.
But Americans have become obsessed with personalities on the political Left and the Right. And, sadly, Americans have become uninterested with ideas. Give us a face and a name and tell us they are destroying our nation and we’ll watch cable news denigrate that person for hours (as if that actually solved anything). But, how many Americans have read the Declaration or the Constitution within the last 3 years, or read a book of American History since leaving High School? Why is representative government a good idea? Why are there 3 branches in our federal government? Why should government have limited authority? What is the Christian principle of subsidiarity? None of these newsletters, all which claimed to be defenders of our nation, helped explain or defend these ideas: they only sought to attack personalities. Hear me out: there are bad actors in American politics and the media (I know I don’t have to convince you of that). But behind bad actors lies the real threat: bad ideas.
More important than the names of Jefferson and Madison are the ideas they inscribed into the founding documents of our nation. They were personalities, no doubt, but they were thinkers. They weren’t inventing our system of government out of thin-air. They were the most well-read political historians and philosophers in history, and they weighed ideas against one another.
I love our founding documents. I believe them to contain some of the finest ideas human beings have ever produced. I doubt we’ll ever find a system of government better suited for human flourishing and the curtailing of injustice in a post-Genesis 3 world. And, if we’re going to perpetuate the blessing that America has been to the world and even work to improve our nation, we’ll need to familiarize ourselves with those ideas. We’ll need to know where they originated, and why they’ve stood the test of time.
Christian, begin to limit the amount of mental and emotional energy you invest in media which only seeks to “own the libs,” and invest that energy in reading our founding documents. Or, read a book of American History. Or listen to a podcast that deals primarily in ideas. Here are a few recommendations that I have enjoyed: