In our political discourse, we assume too much. It’s a big problem. Let me explain.
To one person, a remark is witty and axiomatic. While to another person, the same remark is rude, offensive, and clearly false. Snarky remarks and sloganeering political ads rely on a thousand assumptions, but are delivered with the confidence of the gospel.
We form tribes, camps, factions, and parties around slogans. Ideology becomes doctrine, and we preach to our own choirs. We expel heretics and venerate saints.
This behavior is understandable. We got our epistemology from Jefferson and our history from the progressives. However, in our religiously pluralistic and ethnically diverse country, there are an endless number of starting points and an endless number of destinations.
It’s exhausting to fully understand ourselves let alone others. We take shortcuts and make leaps instead of proceeding carefully and with small steps. If Trevor Noah actually had to explain the nuances of a particular controversy, The Daily Show would sound like an academic conference.
Our political discourse consists of nothing more than naked statements. Houses on sand.
There will be no unity or understanding until we admit that our own political positions are contingent, debatable, and most definitely not self-evident. These examples illustrate my point.
- Why does a baby outside the womb have a different legal status than a baby in the womb?
- The government regulates your body all of the time. Why is abortion different?
- Why does the USA have a responsibility to accept refugees?
- Why is it legal for the government to take my money and to give it to someone else?
- How can you prove that religion is a “private matter”?
- Why must the childless fund public schools?
- Why should the privileged care about the rest of us?
- Why should I give any weight to what the “founding fathers” have to say about a particular issue?
Our answers to questions like these would reveal foundations and core beliefs.
I believe that (1) God created the universe and (2) that He has a plan for my life. Those factual claims inform my outlook on every issue. Someone who believes that life has no purpose is just going to begin reasoning from a different zip code. The Christian and the atheist could both be rational and thoughtful, but they aren’t going to arrive at the same destination.
Your political sign or snarky meme is just not convincing to someone with different assumptions about what is good, true, beautiful, and holy. Your political point is not a self-evident truth.