9/06/2008

'tis the season for Negative Campaigning

How negative campaigning in the national political campaigns sometimes affect the church

Keith Drury

15 comments:

pk said...

You're right that everyone seems to be opposed to negative campaigning but still participates. I have heard both Obama and McCain speak strongly against negative campaigning. And then moments later a commercial will come on "approved by such-and-so" taking the other person's words out of context and tearing the other person down.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I don't believe that we can know the facts about someone's experience, and knowledge, without some comment...We cannot know enough about a candidate with flowery words about the other...but I DO AGREE that things get TOO dirty in politics..I believe that politics is about winning, but the focus is wrong, in that, instead of talking about issues one believes in and experience to back it up, candidates resort to pointing fingers and revealing "scandalous" personal information. The question has to be asked, If politics is about winning, can we trust the integrity of the other candidate to stay on course with his own convictions on issues?
And then, does one's personal life "matter" in revealing one's character? These questions are important ones to address...whereas, the Church, if viewed as a separate entity, is about, well, politics, as well...which I don't think is really any different in "reality"...We do "politics" in "Christ's name", but the "rules" of leadership are the same...there is no spiritual sphere..that is separate or distinct from the natural realm...That does not negate "god"...just that character is revealed in historical time...and as Dr. Phil says (no I don't watch him regularly, but I do agree with this assertion), the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior...so, it behooves us to understand ourselves enough to know where we need to make change within ourselves...An examined life!

Ken Schenck said...

The professorial, indecisive nature of your post leads me to believe you must be in cohoots with evil yourself or, even worse, might be a closet Democrat. If you really believed in truth, you wouldn't put out this wishy washy stuff...

:-)

Bitty said...

An aptly timed word, and EXTREMELY wise corrolation to taking things slow with churches this fall.

I agree: not a time to attempt to spring changes on the congregation. Everyone's too worked up. The airlines may be suffering right now, but it doesn't keep ad hominems from flying! (A ha. Haahahahah. Oh, puns.)

Have you SEEN the "John Adams" miniseries??? OH. MY. GOSH. SOO good.

Bitty said...

P.S. - don't you think part of the [eventually negative] intensity of political spectators is partly just because we can?

I mean, the Chinese populace can't do it, they still don't have much freedom of speech, despite the internet.

And I know people start yawning when history is brought up, but seriously, this country was founded by arguers for arguers. Sometimes I wonder how much Scottish culture has seeped into my blood without even knowing it, through strange genetic wranglings. We American "mutts" have this weird situation where we feel similarly to an adopted child tracking down birth parents - we love our geneaologies because they explain what before seemed random in us.

Anyway, I can't believe that boy tore the newspaper clipping off your coat. He should be ashamed!

Ken said...

i think negative campaigning in the local church is significantly influenced by the democratic process many of us have in our church structure.

in the wesleyan church, we vote on the pastor, vote on the board, and vote on a few other important people and issues. resultantly, those who vote feel free to complain about those elected to office when things don't go as they think they should.

other than appointing leaders (or even, as some churches do, SELF-appointing leaders), i'm not sure how to get around this (and i'm not sure that would solve it, either). it seems that the church is not exempt from the same 'critiquing culture' found in our nation's soul.

Craig Moore said...

Oh Keith, you were innocent of negative campaigning when you worked at Wesleyan HQ?

Daniel G. Shipton said...

I have seen negative campaigning when I have had to make changes with-in church ministry. I remember seeing a sign at a local school where I substitute teach which read, 'Do the right thing, not the popular one.' This statment was a real encouragement during those couple of months when I knew the changes I was making was the right thing, even if everyone else hadn't thought so at the time.

Kris said...

Hm, which makes one wonder, what would a campaign ad look like for a pastoral candidate, or a denominational president??? Perhaps even John Wesley running against John Calvin.

Outside-the-Beltway Drury said...

I think some of these later comments are really getting at some important issues. Let me hit a couple points:

1) Our form of church government is, by nature, political. And this is a good thing!

2) Politics is the science of human relationships and the art of building consensus. Wherever you have people there will be politics. And this is a good thing!

3) Eliminating negative campaigning is like suggesting to someone they purchase a home, choose a college, join the military, go into the ministry [fill in the blank] without weighing the pros and cons--think of making these decisions only on the basis of the pros...Nope, won't even consider the cons...it actually seems stupid...Do you really want to choose a pastor, president, or church without even considering the cons...

4) Because human nature is fallen, lies and half-truths are inevitable. However, surprisingly few political decisions are made on the basis of absolutely false information--in church or in government. Most blatant fabrications are dismissed and have zero effect (e.g. Obama is a closet muslim). Most half-truths are eventually smoked out--however, the half that is true does its damage and often the less-than-honest response to a half-truth is even more damaging. But, the most effective campaigns are those that are negative and true (John Edwards is a liar and cheats on his wife...oops...it's true and he's done forever in presidential politics).

Make no mistake the church is completely political. However, most people consider this unbecoming and therefore the politics must needs be camouflaged. We would likely be a lot healthier and have better overall leadership if we could tolerate a transparent political process including truthful negative campaigning, political speeches--the whole nine-yards.

I can think of one Wesleyan whom I personally support but would not be holding a leadership position if truthful negative campaigning were allowed. Come to think of it, there is probably more than one...

Christy said...

I think negative campaigning is used because it is generally easier than the effort that goes into identifying attainable goals and developing strategic plans to reach them and/or marketing your assets, ideas, and abilities. Personally, I would much rather hear about plans for change or programs and realistic means of enacting them (in both politics and the church)than negative dribble. It can take seconds to throw sin and failure in one's face, but hours to develop a well-thought out, clear, concise, and carefully crafted, thoroughly researched response. It's the same reason one child calls another child a name - "well, you're stupid" rather than explaining his/her feelings were hurt when yadayadayada happened. Human instinct is to go for the quick and easy with the least potential for self-harm or personal failure. It's easier to destroy you than to sell me. I fully support weighing the pros and cons, but only the relevant pros and cons. Until we all dig a little deeper and take a little more time to respond educatedly, we will continue to fall into negative campaigning. The risk in taking the higher ground lay in increased personal responsibility and vulnerability. Even worse - we may discover there is absolutely no reason to pick me over you or my idea over your idea. Can you imagine the politician or church member who stands up, addresses the crowd, and says - "You're right...I'm really no better than you/my ideas are no better than your ideas. Do whatever you think is best..."?

vanilla said...

No real wisdom to contribute save that if at this date you wait three months to vote you will not cast a vote.

Perhaps not a bad idea anyway. My conscience is having a real tussle over the idea of balloting for either candidate.

Eric Wieringa said...

I have to agree with vanilla, I am very conflicted about how to vote or even whether to. for me Neg. campaigning seems to cloud the truth even further. The more I think about it, I wonder how wise it is to align yourself to closely to any version of the kingdom of the world.

Michael Cline said...

And the church even has it's own way of funding a "campaign" of our choosing--tithing. If you don't like a particular "candidate" (read: pastor), you can withhold your tithe to "vote" with your money. It's kinda of like campaign financing.

McCain and Obama have gotten quite negative, but they've gotten nothing on the Senate race up here (Al Franken vs. incumbent Norm Coleman). It's downright ugly! The only thing uglier is when we, as Christians, start passing along the email forwards. I finally had to ask some in my own family to take me off their Obama hate list. :( And not because I'm voting for Mr. Obama, but because it all seems to cheapen what we do together on Sunday mornings.

Thinking in Ohio said...

I found hope in this blog... in a twisted sort of way. Somehow I sub-consciously believed that negative campaigning was a "new thing" which produced an even deeper cynicism... you rooted it in the past. That was helpful.

I wish I could boast that I was under the illusion that it only occurred in the "world" and never in the church... but I already knew better about that one.

I wish I could claim that I've never been one to gossip or complain about church members, leaders or denominational figures... but alas! The blood is on my hands too!

One thing I have learned over the past year is that the only way internal conflict finds resolution is through direct confrontation with the source.

To bad I can't give Bush, McCain and Obama a piece of my mind... then I would need to do any more negative campaigning myself! *just kidding*