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Culture Q&A

Gospel-centered politics

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

Gospel-centered politics

(Illustration by Matthew Cook)

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.

Comments

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  • RS
    Posted: Tue, 12/29/2020 10:29 am

    I appreciate this way of thinking so much. Thank you!

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Mon, 01/11/2021 11:19 am

    More anti-Trump garbage! Yes, the election was stolen and Silicon Valley was one of the main players in this devilry. Unfortunately, World is pushing more propaganda! 

  • Edward Boersma
    Posted: Mon, 01/11/2021 01:16 pm

    Somehow, I agree with Cyborg3. Do I like everything about Mr. Trump? Of course not. I've never liked everything about any president. At least Mr. Trump got something done. Every one else lied to me. I don't understand how a baby killer can
    be a member in good standing of a Roman Catholic church, for example.
    Edward Boersma

  •  JOHN B STONE DMIN's picture
    JOHN B STONE DMIN
    Posted: Mon, 01/11/2021 01:57 pm

    Depressing. The  fraud evidence has not yet been heard properly, and now Trump voters, pro-life supporters  are to be quiet.  Sorry, I am one of many whose seen the stories about the long lists of affadavits and the video of vote counts w/ot observers, and in fact, obeservers being blocked, ad nauseaum. Please interview someone you disgree with on this matter.  I am beginning to lose faith in your magazine after decades of subscribing. Apropos, I long ago bailed on David French, a little too cool for school for me. PS Just think, now we have open season on the unborn with taxpayer monies.  Do you folks ever think about the consequences of being quiet?

  • TIM MILLER
    Posted: Mon, 01/11/2021 04:21 pm

    In 2016, David French, Erick Erickson, and World weren't quiet; they all warned about the danger of the GOP nominating someone with gaping holes in his character. "Character is destiny," they said. It may go well for awhile, but the wheels are going to come off.

    Trump lied about Obama's birth certificate; he lied about Ted Cruz's dad and wife; he lied about his tax returns; he lied about Stormy Daniels; he lied about his phone call to Ukraine; he lied about COVID; he lied about the election results.

    Why should Americans trust him for another 4 years? You decided you could...80 million others decided they couldn't. That's why he lost the election.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Mon, 01/11/2021 05:03 pm

    Tim, you seem to know a lot about lying. And you must be able to read Trump's mind and know all of his actions too. Wow pretty impressive! 

  • TIM MILLER
    Posted: Tue, 01/12/2021 09:31 am

    Facts are facts. If you wish to dispute any of the lies I referenced, I am very willing to correct myself if I am wrong. However, I don't think it's any huge feat to recognize that Trump has a problem telling the truth. Even Ted Cruz figured it out.

    “This man is a pathological liar, he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies … in a pattern that is straight out of a psychology text book, he accuses everyone of lying." -Ted Cruz

     

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Wed, 01/13/2021 02:48 am

    Let us look at your allegations of lying for you need to be called out on this.  First, it is very foolish to call somebody a liar unless you have clear evidence, which you don’t have. You claim he lied about Obama’s birth certificate. Obama’s grandmother said he was born in Kenya. There is a video showing her stating this. Things were a lot more lose back then so could his mother hide him as an infant under her clothing and return back to the USA where she then brought him into the hospital claiming he was born at home. There were also a number of questions about Obama’s time in college which seem mysterious. I bring all this up because a lot of information was floating on the web - very convincingly so. Trump May have believed it which would not make it a lie. Are you a mind reader and know Trump’s deep thoughts? How exactly did Trump lie when he referenced an article written in National Review?  The article claimed that Cruz’s dad passed out fliers with Lee Harvey Oswald. Trump refer to the article questioning if it was true, but saying it was very terrible to do.  Trump was masterful at getting Cruz all riled up, effectively making him look unpresidential. Shortly after cruz dropped out.  Trump’s referencing an article is not lying. You also claim Trump lied about his tax returns.  In what way did he lie?  Did he say he was going to give out his tax returns, and then change his mind? How is changing his mind lying? You also claimed he lied about Stormy Daniels. Were you there to see what happened? No, you weren’t so what makes you think you know he was lying. How exactly did he lie about the Ukraine call? I read the transcripts and nothing he said was out of order? Lying about COVID-19? How rediculous! Lying about the election? Again this is rediculou! It is sad Clearly, you are just reading the liberal media and accepting it hook, line and sinker. Shame on you!

     

    Trump lost the election because the left stole it from him!

  • Rick the Librarian
    Posted: Tue, 01/12/2021 12:29 pm

    I respect Erick Erickson for not taking the easy way out but telling the truth as he sees it and being true (if imperfectly) to the gospel.  There is no one in talk radio that I respect more.  Do I always agree? Certainly not; but I know he stands on a firm foundation.

  • Janet B
    Posted: Tue, 01/12/2021 01:01 pm

    Erick Erickson! I wondered where you went.

    My pastor preached something like this on Sunday.  The gospel is what is needed, and service to the needy in our communities is better action than anything else, and prayer is the first step.

    But it is hard to change my heart when I know that the attacks on the President and his followers for the last 4 years have been unprecedented, with a concerted effort by the MSM to paint him and his supporters (me) as "evil," racist, white supremacists.  When I know that, despite being brash and rude and pushy and other adjectives for poor character, he championed pre-born life more than any other president, that he cared about middle America and worked to make life better for them, and he did this while fending off a constant barrage of negative, even deceitful, press.  It is hard not to champion someone who was not afraid to rock the boat, in both the political and media realms.  

    Of course, God is above all this.  He's not suprised.  And if the next four years bring unprecedented censorship and loss of Constitutional protections, it is only what we deserve for allowing the murder of 60,000,000 innocents, and the acceptance of so many things abominable to God.  He has been merciful for quite a while now.

    So it is a good thing to turn to Him, and serve Him toward our neighbors.  We need Him, big time.

  • D&
    Posted: Wed, 01/13/2021 09:50 am

    Thank you for this refreshing interview!  I am so saddened that politics has become the dominant religion in America - on all sides.  I so appreciate Erikson's commitment to growth.  Too many people refuse to be sharpened or challenged and only listen to or read those they agree with.

  • WR
    Posted: Thu, 01/21/2021 08:24 am

    Great interview. Thank you, Walt Rosenbaum

  • WR
    Posted: Thu, 01/21/2021 08:38 am

    Remember:

    No matter where you come from in this election

    God is still on the throne of heaven and heaven still rules.

    Walt