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Grace is not optional—even in politics

Erick Erickson | Christians get no pass for meanness

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Grace is not optional—even in politics
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Spend enough time on social media, and you will encounter a growing phenomenon of mostly male conservative pot stirrers, defined by their online pot-stirring personas, insisting on being as nasty as they perceive the Left to be. Niceness is anathema, and grace is weakness. Welcome to the post-Christian right.

The reason some on the right reject niceness is because they think left-wing behavior has been successful. Social media conservatives see the success of left-wing mobs ruining careers for errant, decades-old tweets. They see corporate America leaning left, becoming vocal about Texas’s pro-life legislation and Georgia’s election law. They see the embrace of cultural progressivism and the earnest and angry agitation for it nationwide. They are interested in winning the here and now with no focus on eternity.

James Lindsay, an atheist and cultural critic of wokeism and left-wing excess, has given voice to some of the anti-niceness enthusiasm circulating among the post-Christian right. Recently, he tweeted, “Beating Wokeness requires being mean to weak people, which most decent people find intolerable.” Regardless of his intent or explanation for the tweet, it circulated among the angry set of conservatives who think fighting back like the left is necessary. Right-wing cancel culture, in other words, is imperative. Scalp collection is a goal.

The Left has ruined people’s careers—and bragged about it. In 2014, gay-rights activists successfully pressured the City of Atlanta into firing the city’s fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, for writing a book for his Sunday school class that quoted scripture to show God considers homosexual relations sinful. The same year, Brandon Eich lost his job as CEO of Mozilla Corporation for supporting the traditional-marriage ballot initiative in California, though it was 2008 when he supported it. Since then, left-wing cancel culture has only escalated nationally.

Concurrently, progressives have rushed to impose critical race theory in public education. They have embraced the historically farcical 1619 Project. They have been aided by the media in doing so. But contrary to the views of those who see the left-wing advance as successful and worthy of duplicating, the left has suffered electoral and judicial setbacks.

Kelvin Cochran won his legal battle against the City of Atlanta, but he did not win reinstatement. Parents have risen up against critical race theory so much so that some school systems are abandoning it. In 2020, Democrats expected a wave of Democrat takeovers at the state and federal levels. Instead, Republicans made state-level gains and came within less than a half dozen seats of taking back the House of Representatives—a feat no one, including the GOP, expected. The GOP’s major losses were the presidency and two Senate seats in Georgia.

Being mean to weak people or reciprocating nastiness with more nastiness may scratch a particular itch for some on the right. Still, it suggests that nastiness is a viable solution for electoral gains. The evidence at the ballot box suggests voters reject nastiness. Voters want an alternative to the nastiness, not more of it.

Additionally, Christians must work hard to avoid nastiness. Behaving like the secular left is ultimately an embrace of worldliness. Worldliness is the rejection of godliness. Worldliness may play well at the time, but Christians have eternity as our focus. Ultimately, if people who claim Christ behave without grace in politics, they harm their witness and reject the commandment to love their neighbor as themselves. A post-Christian right winds up in perpetual pursuit of a right-wing dystopia with all the charm of an Antifa rally.

Christians must not abandon politics, even as American politics gets nasty. We must not abandon courage, conviction, or shrewdness. But in pursuit of political advances and policy advances, we have to maintain a level of grace for others in the public square even when that grace is not reciprocated. Unfortunately, the secular Left and post-Christian Right are playing the short game. Christians play an eternal game and must be mindful not to inherit the earth and lose our souls.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson is a lawyer by training, has been a political campaign manager and consultant, helped start one of the premiere grassroots conservative websites in the world, served as a political contributor for CNN and Fox News, and hosts evening drive time on WSB Radio in Atlanta.


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Very true. We cannot adapt worldly methods and expect to win spiritual battles. This excellent book analyzes the American church through the lens of 1 Corinthians and challenges us to godly, not worldly, wisdom.


Excellent! Thank you.


The concluding paragraph should be tattooed on both my forearms. Demonizing folks is never a good idea. I have a cousin who grew up in a mangled fractured divorce and adultery riddled "family" with the word DYSFUNCTIONAL all but flashing in all cap neon letters above it. She was the "product" of her mother's affair with a co-worker. Since her mother was married to my uncle at the time she was listed as his kid but Uncle Bob never was anything remotely close to a Daddy to her. There may be more to her story but I don't know it. So today whenever I meet any homosexuals I always assume some type of familial dysfunction was prevalent in formative years and that tempers any response I voice on a one on one conversation

Sean McGrew

This whole piece is one big strawman fallacy. Erickson complains of "mostly male conservative pot stirrers, defined by their online pot-stirring personas, insisting on being as nasty as they perceive the Left to be," yet doesn't give us even a single example. He cites a single atheist on Twitter, and then goes on to implicate Christians who are now OK with "[b]eing mean to weak people or reciprocating nastiness with more nastiness." Show me one example of a Christian who believes this. I sit in a church full of them every Sunday and have never heard any of my brothers and sisters say that it's OK to be mean to weak people. In my small groups, we actually pray for our political enemies, both foreign and domestic. To say that Christians are doing this and should stop without giving any evidence to the assertion is a strawman fallacy.

What Erickson calls the "post-Christian Right" has another name: The Left. Even though her Wikipedia bio still claims that she's a conservative, formerly pro-life columnist Mona Charen exemplifies this complete abandonment of conservative values for political expediency. While for years, she used to identify values that align with those of Christians, she's completely left them behind in her left turn. For example, she has now endorsed Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia, a man who heartily endorses their barbaric abortion law legalizing it up to the moment of birth. This seems an unusual about-face for someone who wrote in 2013 that McAuliffe didn't know "how to govern a state," and was a person beset by many "ethical problems." (1) Then in 2016, she referred to McAuliffe as one of "Hillary's felonious friends." (2) She can say she's a pro-life conservative and she can even put it in her National Review byline, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's not a Christian nor conservative. A much shorter column could just as easily have read, "Progressive Democrats who call themselves something else are acting like progressive Democrats."

(1) https://www.nationalreview.com/2013/10/fight-worth-having-virginia-mona-charen/
(2) https://www.yourconroenews.com/neighborhood/moco/opinion/article/Charen-Hillary-Clinton-s-Felonious-Friends-in-9505957.php


I think the phenomenon you're referring too - the thing that happened with Mona Charen and a number of other pre-Trump solid conservatives - is that the great orange comet that shook up GOP politics made them so upset that they turned all their fury and ire upon that object which has destroyed the prior conservative consensus, making their rhetoric and activism mirror that of the left even as they remain ideologically conservative. Jonah Goldberg, while far from pro-Trump, said of publications like The Bulwark (where Charen now calls home): "If you wake up every morning trying to argue about why Trump is bad and the people who like Trump are evil, you’re just as obsessed with him as the people who wake up every morning wanting to prove that Trump is a glorious statesman and everything he does is great". Never Trump and pro-Trump publications are two sides of the same Trump-obsessed coin.

I think what Erickson is talking about goes back a little bit further than 2016. Indeed, it may be what made so many in the GOP receptive to Trump's firebrand rhetoric in the first place. Smash-mouth politicking has always been part of public debate, but I'd say it was somewhere halfway through Obama's administration that it really took over conservative circles such that it became the primary way we talked about the other side.



Thanks for that interesting reply. I had not really picked up on the phenomenon going back to the EverTrump/NeverTrump divide. However, I would take issue with a couple of things.

You say that the NeverTrumpers at the Bulwark "remain ideologically conservative." I fail to see how anyone who votes to install pro-abortion people into the positions of power can be considered "conservative." This is an easy litmus test. The conservative position is that all humans carry the Imago Dei and so are equally valuable and all possess the right to live. This includes those in the stage of development before birth, those at the end of their lives, and everyone in between. It is not dependent on location, usefulness, nor even consciousness. Supporting abortion rejects this definition of humanity, regardless of the person's feelings about this candidate or that. Thus, the people at the Bulwark may be many things--JayCees, Knights of Columbus members, Little League coaches, columnists, spouses, and possibly even church-goers. But what they aren't are conservatives.

The whole "I can't support Trump because he makes mean tweets, and no true Scotsman nor Christian either would vote for him," is a weak argument. This becomes especially clear when the election is between two individuals and not a selection from a group of people. World Magazine editors blew this one big time, and I let my subscription lapse because of it. This election's effect on gas prices has affected us negatively here in Montana, where we regularly drive vast distances. The immediate hit to my household budget caused us to drop luxuries as we prioritized our expenses. World Magazine fell off the list because their editorializing against Trump was essentially support for pro-abortion Biden.

This piece strikes me as simply a way to deflect from an embarrassingly wrong decision to support the greater of two evil candidates. Finger-wagging at Christians doesn't change that fact.

Thanks again for your reply! I'm grateful that you've inspired me to work out these thoughts in print. (In case you were wondering, I ended up renewing my subscription because I really do love the paper version of the magazine, and I'm a daily listener to the World and Everything podcast. I changed my mind on dumping World because one misguided opinion doesn't outweigh the value and work of everyone else there. To find the money, I dumped my satellite TV.)


Man, I've been super grateful for World. I started reading again this year after eschewing news for many years and realizing I needed to get a handle on what was going and and where everyone was coming from. What an interesting time indeed to be a conservative and a Christian! Personally I didn't think it made sense to bind someone else's conscience on voting for Trump one way or the other. Piper's piece on the 2020 election was a fair reflection of the tension I felt going into it.


The "Bulwark Conservatives" (for lack of a better name) don't have such hesitation. They see Trump as a vile usurper of the conservative movement whose lust for power must be stopped at all costs, even if it means the death of the GOP which he has reshaped in his own image. But they and others like the folks at the LincolnProject exhibit the same totalizing, divisive, harmful, egotistical rhetoric that made me leery about Trump in the first place. It's been pretty sad to see - fiscal insanity and moral confusion on the left and endless bitterness and recrimination on both sides. My hope - and what would be beautiful to see - is that as Christians we can show the world a better way: not compromising the substance of the debate but showing grace in the manner of it. Erickson, the author of this piece, isn't one to shy away from conflict - he's had his fair number of "mean tweets" and a twitter ban to boot. Maybe he was even thinking of himself as he wrote these warnings! It's easy to get sucked in, which is why we all need reminders like this from time to time. :)


This is a great comment! I agree wholeheartedly with you that human dignity and value are not decided by which side of a political issue one falls. I also agree that we should not bend our theology to fit our politics, but rather align our political view with our Christian worldview. When people accept or dismiss ideas about truth based on their political views, we get all kinds of screwball incoherence.

We see it in the former conservatives of the Bulwark and Lincoln Project. I remember when former President G.W. Bush bailed out the automotive industry, saying "I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system." We also see it from the left, too. Remember when uber-feminist Gloria Steinem made clear her intent to vote for former President Bill Clinton, despite credible evidence of him being a serial sexual predator? She said that it was “vital” to “preserving reproductive freedom,” even as the rights of Clinton's victims were dismissed as subordinate to a greater cause. (1) It's not surprising for a politician to say, "Don't like my priciples? I've got others!" They have to win elections after all, and sadly that means being all things to all people. However, when people abandon their ideals to stand on the shifting sands of the zeitgiest, that's really sad.

The problem when one's worldview is based entirely on a cultural framework, is that as cultural winds shift, you will eventually run up against reality. I pray that everyone comes to see that living with the cognitive dissonance that comes from trying to live as if God didn't exist can only end in failure, frustration, and misery. A better way is to live in Jesus, where we are promised abundant life.

I think we've beaten this horse enough. Thank you for engaging with me! I look forward to reading more comments from you! You've got great insight, and I enjoy your thoughts!

(1) http://www2.edc.org/WomensEquity/edequity98/0561.html


Mostly men?? I can't get passed your first sentence without seeing you have a bias against men. Maybe its time to give grace and forgiveness to them too. I see MANY angry women on social media platforms in fact maybe more then men. I wish you would be more objective in your writings.


What if the specific issue he addresses is in fact more common among men than women? Maybe he's observed different things than you have, but that doesn't prove he's biased against his own sex.

Laura W

Exactly. If your opponents make you out to be a monster, don't take that as an excuse to actually be one.


As a Christian the duty to NOT respond in kind is non-negotiable. Today most folks likely see Gary Bauer as a fringe gadfly (thought not me). Some years back he issued an outstanding apology for daring to point out that a certain Congressman had a weight problem. It came about after the hefty congressperson had made remarks suggesting that the size of a living being helped determine its significance and thus right to life. I believe in hindsight the comment was quite mild but Bauer realized that pointing out the Congressman was a tab tubby in no way advanced a proLife message or did anything to maybe win support for any type of legislation.