Our Political Mission
It's Not What Some Think It Should Be
For a magazine that mostly steers clear of political debate, Touchstone has, over the years, received more than its fair share of politically charged letters that demean us as retrograde and intolerant. And so it is worthwhile to say something every now and then about Touchstone and politics.
A few months back, I was speaking with a reader who noted that Touchstone is "very careful" about staying out of politics. Well, yes and no. While the American political divide has never been our focus, we did run a cover story once calling the Democratic Party "The Godless Party." And over the last 34 years, we've maintained an unflinching opposition to abortion, marriage redefinition, and every aspect of the LGBT agenda (which is the subject of nearly all of those politically charged letters).
Now that all of the Democratic Party and a large portion of the Republican Party have come out in support of all and sundry erotic acts between people of the same sex and no longer understand marriage as the relationship that brings new life into the world, there aren't many U.S. politicians on the left or the right who could afford to be seen with a copy of our magazine under their arm. As Richard John Neuhaus once put it, "Wherever orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed."
Nonetheless, the reader was mostly right to say we stay out of politics, although there is nothing "very careful" about it. When a submission presents a political argument wherein the Christian point is absent or forced, we reject it, even if we might share the writer's political point of view. A Christ-free political argument will never appear in this journal. I'll come back to that in a moment.
Recently, a number of readers have complained to me when they have seen Touchstone contributors taking political swings against Christians on the political right in online publications or on social media (usually for having voted for Donald Trump). These conversations sometimes make me wish Twitter and Facebook would just ban all Touchstone contributors from their platforms. (Besides, has anyone on Twitter ever had his opinion changed by a writer who insinuates that those who disagree with him are unpatriotic, racist, or stupid?)
I wish our readers didn't hold us accountable for what contributors to this journal write elsewhere, although it's not unreasonable that they sometimes do. After all, we aren't just a magazine; we are a Christian fellowship, and when one of our own starts hurling accusations at other Christians, our readers have every reason to wonder whether the comment was directed at them. All I can say is that you won't see any of this in the pages of Touchstone, nor anywhere else in our name.
Bracketing Out God
None of this is meant to suggest that a piece of political commentary cannot be made from deep Christian conviction. But it is a mighty difficult thing to do because the political arena has become so thoroughly secular. Why would the devil care what political views we hold when nearly everyone in the political fight seems to agree that it's best to keep Jesus out of it? And since ours is the era of the politicization of everything, that means keeping Jesus out of just about everything.
In the end, we do have a political mission, and it's a big one. We mean to knock out the props from beneath the secular political arena by unraveling the secular myth. This modern myth holds that we can bracket out or even renounce God and still get along fine and make sense of the world. This is nonsense, because if God really is the Father of all creation, and if he entered human history for the purpose of redeeming all mankind from its fallen state, then the idea that man could ever reasonably bracket God out of anything—and most fundamentally, the idea that we could bracket God out of how we construct the political order in the world in which we live—is not just a failure of reason; it is utterly delusional.
A big part of unraveling that myth means not engaging in secular political debates on their own terms, as then Senator Obama demanded when he wrote that "our deliberative, pluralistic democracy demands . . . that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values." Oh pray tell, Mr. Obama, what universal secular values did you have in mind that transcend both the atheist and the Christian? Perhaps this is one: Sic volo, sic jubeo, stat pro ratione voluntas—Thus I will; thus I command; will stands in place of reason.
J. Douglas Johnson is Executive Editor of Touchstone.
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