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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

Not so quiet

We’re here to promote discussion, but not to make up your mind

Not so quiet

(Webphotographeer/Getty Images)

“Your silence these days,” a friend of mine challenged me, “makes you look like a wimp. The nation’s in an uproar. Certainly WORLD must have an opinion.”

“No,” I countered. “WORLD magazine isn’t always ready to stake out an opinion. Various ones of us as individuals may have opinions. Not a single one of us speaks for the whole team.”

“You’re scared, don’t you think? At least a little. Scared if you say something really critical of President Trump, like you did during the campaign last fall, hundreds of your readers will desert you. Scared if you say something positive, maybe even more readers will conclude you don’t know what you think.”

“No,” I said, “not for a second do I think WORLD’s staff is scared. We’re committed to a sovereign God. And we’re excited to be involved in the journalistic task of chronicling truthfully what that sovereign God is doing in this perverse and crooked culture.” (As our friends at Tabletalk magazine emphasized in a recent devotional: “Christ is ‘Lord of lords and King of kings,’ and He will defeat all of His foes. This is such an important truth for us to remember as we live in this fallen world. So often, we experience seeming defeat in our battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. But the good news of the gospel tells us that these defeats are only temporary.”)

Our main task has been to report to you as truthfully as we can all the evidence we can find, and then invite you to decide what to do with it.

“But,” my friend asked, “how do we sort out the good guys from the bad guys? How do we know who represents ‘the world, the flesh, and the devil’? We laymen out here like to keep things simple. It would really help us if you professionals at WORLD would spell out who’s worth supporting and who we should regard as dangerous. We need that guidance in complex settings like the Middle East—and we need it almost as much in not-quite-so-complex settings like Washington, D.C.”

Well, I thought. I understand the tendency to oversimplify. Journalists face that temptation every day. It is, I’ve found, a human inclination. Yes, we could research and then publish an annual “WORLD Voter Guide” so you could, on any given issue, see exactly how we think you should vote. But that just isn’t the kind of journalism WORLD has sought to practice. Instead, our main task has been to report to you as truthfully as we can all the evidence we can find, and then invite you to decide what to do with it. Drilling for oil in the Arctic? Here are the pertinent facts. Read them, digest them, and then vote accordingly. Put some tighter restrictions on the internet? We’ll tell you what some thoughtful people have to say about that, and why. If those thoughtful people have some Biblical arguments to back up their opinions, so much the better. But we won’t try to make up your mind.

Obviously, those somewhat elastic standards don’t apply when we’re talking about clear Biblical principles. If simple honesty is at stake, for example, we won’t hesitate to bring the discussion closer to the ballot box. Sometimes much closer! For example, if it can be demonstrated right now that President Trump’s Democratic and media critics have simply made up their current charges about Russian influence and obstruction of justice; or if President Trump keeps stonewalling when asked to provide evidence that “4 or 5 million false ballots were cast in the November election,” then we’ve moved on from opinion to issues of demonstrable fact. Fake news isn’t to be accepted or rejected by degrees; if an account isn’t provably true, it’s a transgression of the Ninth Commandment. And WORLD won’t sugarcoat the evidence just because there’s an election coming up.

“So,” I told my good friend, “maybe WORLD hasn’t been as silent as you thought. Maybe you were expecting to find something WORLD never really intended to offer.”

But I couldn’t resist asking my friend one question of my own. Would he back off his skeptical frame of mind if the rest of Trump’s presidential performance so far had matched the quality of his notable personnel picks, for both his Cabinet and his support staff. “You bet,” he said. “And especially so if you’re referring to names like Pence and Gorsuch.”