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Gospel-centered politics

The Bible gives us models for ensuring our politics conform to our faith, especially under a new presidential administration

Illustration by Matthew Cook

Gospel-centered politics
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One of WORLD Magazine’s slogans since the 1990s has been “Sensational facts, understated prose.” Many publications, though, practice angry overstatement—and, starting in 2005, Erick Woods Erickson became known as a master of the form. He was editor in chief of RedState and then a political contributor to CNN and Fox News. At age 45 Erickson, still lively but less militant, concentrates on his popular Atlanta talk show: This month brings his 10th anniversary on radio station WSB. Here are edited excerpts of our Dec. 9 interview.

How has taking one course per semester at Reformed Theological Seminary affected your theology? I realized in seminary how much I have been twisting my faith to conform to politics instead of turning my politics toward where my faith is. For example, when Jesus tells the Apostles to pick up swords, I always read it as a perfect defense of the Second Amendment. It was actually a fulfillment of prophecy.

Overall, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned? God has a detailed plan we only get glimpses of. It’s hard to sink into despair over world events when you realize all of these things are part of the plan, and everything’s going to be OK.

What about verbal swords? You built RedState and left it in 2015, so you’re not responsible for the warfare headlines in today’s issue: “Parler Shoots Down More Lies …” “Michigan Secretary of State … Snivels …,” and “Joe Biden Shows 47 Years in Washington Doesn’t Protect You from Dementia”? You did establish the pattern, though. A lot of websites are dependent on clickbait, and I’ve been guilty. A lot of media companies depend on tribal, “gotcha” stories to rally the base. It’s a click-and-revenue business, so I can’t blame them, but I’m a bad businessman.

Is all this shooting down rhetoric playing with fire? Crazy doesn’t just exist on one side of the aisle. When Republicans talk about a stolen election, and attack other, “traitorous” Republicans, that inspires violence among unstable people.

What do you make of the “stolen election” claims and claimants? I talked to enough of them immediately after the election that I really believe a lot don’t believe it. When you look at their legal filings around the country, they would not have done such a terrible, haphazard job if they really believed this stuff.

Are many in it for power and money? Some want to stay on the gravy train. Some want book deals, cable TV access, or shows of their own. A lot of it is performance theater to keep Donald Trump happy, but also to keep his supporters happy. Some will run for office, and they want to say what they did for the president. They’re willing to embarrass themselves for the guy these voters love.

Has politics become a new religion? Yes, there is that element. A lot of these will seriously need to work on some repentance after all of this is done—knowing many of them don’t actually believe what they’re saying, but feel they’ve got to do it for themselves, their income, their access to power.

Who do you think is acting responsibly now, and perhaps helping people turn a penitent heart toward God? Not a ton of people out there right now. [Georgia officials] Geoff Duncan, Brad Raffensperger, and Brian Kemp are willing to say the election wasn’t stolen. David French. Ben Sasse in Washington is speaking a lot of truth. He is unquestionably conservative and authentically Christian, and he can use that pulpit to improve lives and share truths with people who don’t want to hear them.

It’s important to debate, but how do we keep from turning opponents into enemies? I sometimes fall down on this—sometimes it’s easy to give in to hating someone. I have to remind myself we’re all sinners and see the world in different ways. Those with different values and presuppositions are not my enemy, nor do they want to destroy the country.

To be big-time successful in the national talk show world, what do you need to do? A lot of people on talk radio now are essentially doing bad impressions of Rush Limbaugh. He told me the secret to radio is you’re not there to save the world, you’re there to be entertaining. A lot of people in conservative talk radio have misunderstood that to be bombast and hysteria. We’re getting so angry, so us versus them, that it even wears out people who agree with you.

Do you expect to see much repentance? I don’t expect a lot. Until Donald Trump is off the stage, I don’t think anything will change. Then you’ll see Republican politicians moving forward who try to embrace whatever they define as Trumpism without Trump—essentially saying, “I’m just like him on all these things, except I’m not someone who’s going to turn off suburbia.”

What’s the likelihood of Trump running again? He’ll be 78. If you get adjusted to a post-presidential life where you still have the Secret Service and a lot of the trappings of power without having the day job, and you make more money—you may not want to run again.

Would you want him to run again? I don’t think so. I still think character matters greatly. He brought out the worst in a lot of people who decided they could behave just like him. A lot of them haven’t gotten away with it.

Who would you like to see running in 2024? I’m intrigued by Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, and Nikki Haley. I suspect none of them will be the nominee because we’ll get a wild card, whether it’s a Ron DeSantis from Florida or a Doug Ducey from Arizona. A lot of young faces on the right, many of whom are sympathetic with him on policies, will be overshadowed by Trump if he runs again.

Who are some of those faces? I’m not sure Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are viable presidential candidates, but they’re leaders. Ben Sasse from Nebraska, although he’s alienated himself from the base by standing up to the president. Kristi Noem in South Dakota is an up-and-coming governor. Lt. Govs. Geoff Duncan in Georgia and Matt Pinnell in Oklahoma. House Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Chip Roy, both from Texas.

How should we reorient our perspective about politics? Let’s think about these 12 guys who never got involved in politics. They were all friends with another guy, and none had real power except for their friend—and He died and conquered death. These 12 after He was gone went out and changed the world for Him with the help of the Holy Spirit. They never cast a vote, they never ran for office—but they improved the lives of the whole world.

Many WORLD readers are not looking forward to an administration run by people who don’t share their values. They should remember this: Lots of people in your community are suffering, and that guy in Washington is not going to help them, but you actually can—and if you help them and improve their lives, you’ll see your life improved, regardless of what happens in Washington.

I gather your health is better, and your wife’s three-month cancer checkups are going OK? Yes, she has an incurable form of genetic lung cancer. She goes every three months for a check. She takes a small pill every day that keeps the tumors from growing. She’s four years into a pill that’s only supposed to work two years, and it’s still working. I’ve still got some clots in my lungs from four years ago, but I’m actually healing.

Last question is the tombstone one: What do you want people to remember you for when you’re gone? I want to be remembered as a guy who was willing to share the gospel even if it cost me.

My friend Warren Smith in an interview five years ago asked you that question. You said, “Here lies Erick Erickson, who said what needed to be said, even when people didn’t like it.” You’ve become more specific about the gospel. I have been told more in the last six months than in my previous nine years on radio, You can’t do that if you want to be successful nationally. But I know we’ve got a God, and He is coming back. If it costs me, that’s fine, because I know where I’m headed.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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