Peace in Politics: How to reduce anxiety during the 2022 midterms: A conversation with Josh Miller

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Peace in Politics: How to reduce anxiety during the 2022 midterms: A conversation with Josh Miller

October 10, 2022 -

The Denison Forum Podcast discusses timely news and relevant topics with biblical insight. Hosted by Dr. Mark Turman and featuring Dr. Jim Denison, plus guests on occasion, this weekly, discussion-oriented podcast will help Christians further develop a biblical worldview on current events, equipping them to be salt and light for Christ.

The Denison Forum Podcast discusses timely news and relevant topics with biblical insight. Hosted by Dr. Mark Turman and featuring Dr. Jim Denison, plus guests on occasion, this weekly, discussion-oriented podcast will help Christians further develop a biblical worldview on current events, equipping them to be salt and light for Christ.

The Denison Forum Podcast discusses timely news and relevant topics with biblical insight. Hosted by Dr. Mark Turman and featuring Dr. Jim Denison, plus guests on occasion, this weekly, discussion-oriented podcast will help Christians further develop a biblical worldview on current events, equipping them to be salt and light for Christ.

Josh Miller, Dr. Mark Turman, and Mark Legg discuss partisanship bias, Christian hypocrisy, dealing with anger and anxiety, and how to maintain peace during political uncertainty.

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Show notes:

Mark Turman begins by asking about the top five issues for the 2022 midterms, and they discuss how the different politicized news sources will cover the topics (1:45). They turn to discuss the role fear plays in politics now, and how to try to get both sides of the perspective (7:31). Josh speaks about why he wrote Peace in Politics, and the hypocrisy of many Christians when they talk about politics, especially the prevalence of anger and anxiety (20:50). They turn to humility as a crucial part of wrestling with politics for the Christian (32:52). We must not dehumanize political “opponents”, instead we show compassion first and foremost (43:08). They discuss the technology behind social media and how that contributes to our division, and how to practically deal with the intrusion of bias, anger, and anxiety in this political season (47:42).

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

Mark Turman DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

Mark Legg is the Associate Editor for Denison Forum. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 2021 with a degree in Philosophy and Biblical Studies.

About the guest

Josh Miller is the Creative Director of Denison Ministries and author of First15’s free e-book: “Peace in Politics.” He’s also a musician, writer, and teacher for a local church in the Dallas area.


Transcribed by

 Mark Turman  00:09

Welcome to another episode of the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman host for today’s conversation, sitting down with some of the team from the Denison Forum, have Mark Legg who you’ve heard before. Mark is Associate Editor for us, say good morning. Good morning. Yeah. Glad to have you. Mark is recently married. So we may want to get into that topic as well. And he’s still very much in the honeymoon phase, right? Yes, I would say so. You would say that. Would she say that? Okay. So we’re celebrating with him. We also have today Josh Miller, who is creative director for Denison forum and Denison ministries. Josh is also a teacher at one of the area churches here in the Dallas area, and wears a lot of different hats also, as a musician, and is a writer. We’re going to talk today about a book that he’s working on. And that is available to you called Peace in politics. And we’ll get into that in just a moment. But Josh, say good morning. Good morning. Glad to be here. Yeah. So we’re kind of a little bit bleary eyed, we had a big event for the Dennison forum last night. And we’re all still kind of recovering, slept in or tried to sleep in and a little bit tired today. But we’ll we’ll make the best of it. Drinking lots of coffee, too. Yes, drinking lots of coffee, and wanted to kind of kick things off, we try to not take partisan positions at the Denison forum and will not do that here. But we have been talking in recent days about what the midterm elections will be all about what will be on people’s minds. The media is already driving a lot of these topics. So I wanted to ask you guys to kind of react to what I think will be the top five things that people are thinking about going into their voting booth this time. The first one I lead with is just all things Donald Trump, whether you love him, whether you hate him, whatever stance you might have, he seems to be in every single political conversation that you can get into today, in one way or another. And that, whether you talk about recent events surrounding him and his home in Florida, or that it’s just this big thing called all things Trump is one big bucket item. The second one is somewhat related, but it actually involves both political parties in a substantial way, which is this issue of election integrity. Can we really trust this process that we’re all going to go and vote like we always do, and that the outcome of it is legitimate. We’ve written on this, we’ve done a podcast on this in a few months back, you can find all of that stuff through our website at Denison But election integrity is fundamental. And it is a very, very divisive issue right now. What I’ve listed as the third one may actually be the first one in many people’s minds, which is just the economy and inflation, what we’re paying for gas, what we’re paying for food. I don’t know about you guys, but when I go out to eat these days, it’s like the hamburger I used to pay $6 for I’m now paying $10 For it’s been shocking sometimes. Yeah. And I actually had the experience of going and getting a burger fries and a coke. And it cost me $20. Yeah, wow. And they and it was not a $20 Hamburger. Yeah. And so anyway, the economy is a big, big deal. I think foreign affairs are more important now than they’ve ever been in our minds, because of things like the pandemic. We now know that travel and technology can bring stuff from around the world to us in short order. And that certainly happened with the pandemic. So I think things like Ukraine, and what China’s trying to do, and this that or the other area is much more of a concern than it used to be. And then the last one is just related to abortion and abortion rights because of what happened through the summer with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the DOPPS decision, that type of thing, depending on where you might be in the country that seems to be bubbling up into a larger conversation. So that’s my five. And I put them in order. So you can challenge my five, you can rearrange the order you can add to what is your reaction?


Josh Miller  04:25

Man, I think that your five are correct. I think in terms of which order, it’s hard to say right now. I think it changes by the day. From my perspective, it seems like the news organizations in particular, kind of poking and prodding to see what’s going to get people most activated. So if you’re looking at kind of right leaning news sources, they’re poking and prodding around certain issues to find out what’s going to make people both most afraid and most angry, I think, right? And then on the left side, you’re seeing the same thing. That’s why I think Trump comes up a lot on left leaning sides is because he makes for a great villain in some cases. as well, and brings people out to vote against him. And so I think depending on where you stand politically, certain people are going to find different issues being the most prominent in their own lives, you know, because there are certain things that are more kind of triggering to them, or bring up more fear to them. And so they’ll find those issues becoming most prevalent, you know, for me, on my day to day, I feel the pain of inflation right now, on a regular basis, like you’re saying, going out to eat, or going to the grocery store, things are coming out more expensive than they normally would were on a day to day basis. I’m not really thinking about Trump now that, you know, Roe v. Wade was overturned, I’m not thinking about that every day, as well. And so it’s, it’s interesting to me to kind of watch how all these new sources kind of pivot to try and find what’s going to drive the most attention, you know. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the coming months, as you know, as we’re getting into midterms and past midterms, what the narrative is coming from both both sides, but


Mark Legg  06:07

Right, yeah, and something that you hit on that we’ve talked about with David French before, who’s a commentator, cultural and political commentator, is that it seems more and more that parties are not discussing what policies they’re putting forward. But kind of instilling fear of what the other side will do if you allow them to be elected. And so just like you said, the narrative on each side is becoming more and more about, okay, if you’re right leaning, the top priority is going to be something like the economy, because it’s something everyone can feel. And it’s something everyone is upset about, as well. And so they’re going to press in on that. If you’re on the left side, and you have your own worldview, that includes abortion is a fundamental human right, that’s going to be something they say, Look, this is this is already at risk clearly, for them. And so you just see more and more, it’s about going against the other side, rather than for something in particular. And so with that said, I think you’re right, they’re still touching on okay, what I mean, I think it’s pretty solidly the the economy, it seems like for the right leaning sites and, and thinkers, and then it’s more to do with Trump as like, as always, it seems like, but we’ll see how it plays out. I think your list is great. And I think it’s right on. But maybe we could start by talking about that about the fear and how it’s become more about I mean, you just see in political ads even, it’s about, hey, this is what this other governor is doing. Right? This is what I mean, Jim even talked about it this morning, I think, how it’s there’s more and more governors becoming their political ads are targeting other governors of states, things like that. So you guys want to comment on?


Mark Turman  07:59

I’ve heard Dr. Jim talked about this a number of times, if you, if you want to gain attention, or you want to raise money, there’s kind of this three step process of number one, you need to convince people that they have a threat or an enemy, that there’s something they really need to be afraid of. And then the second step is that they can’t solve that problem, they can’t overcome that threat on their own. And that number three, if they will elect you, or, or you will give them money, or you, they will give you money that you can help them overcome the threat, right. That’s the way you get their vote, that’s the way you get their money is, hey, let me identify this threat that is overwhelming to you. Let me convince you that you can’t handle it on your own, and you need me, so elect me and give me money. And that that’s that’s the way many of this over this fear process often works in our culture, and you just kind of see it. And then you know, the kind of related to this mark, of what you’re talking about is that really is a big struggle for me is just of all the things that were suspicious now of in our culture, being suspicious of the media, which is where we get our information and understanding about any of this. Yeah, I mean, we’re not in Washington, we’re not in our state capitals. We’re relying on this bridge called the media to tell us what is happening, and how we ought to understand and think about all these things. But there’s now widespread distrust of media. Yeah. So then you’re like, Well, how do I know? What is even remotely accurate to talk about,


Mark Legg  09:40

That’s on both sides of the aisle. That distrust is by the way.


Josh Miller  09:43

Yeah. And I felt that tension over the past few years myself of feeling like I need to read or watch all the sources just to create some kind of aggregate that feels like it’s fair and not biased in some way. And I think a lot of that We can get into this in more detail if you want. But a lot of that is due to the way media has changed over the past couple of decades, to where things were coming from subscription based news sources, newspapers, or a few more unbiased, you know, news programs on TV. Now, you’re really the news media is primarily a digital news media, which means instead of having primarily subscribers, pay for the news to be created, you’re paying for the newscasters through your subscriptions, then most of their revenue is now being driven through advertising. So it is now their business model to get clicks not to inform accurately. And so you see that on both sides is they’re they’re asking the question, what is going to drive the most traction and unbiased, moderated news is not the right answer to that question, right? It’s going to be things that are kind of fear inducing things that feel kind of blown out of proportion, things that even might have half truths in them, or kind of intentionally biased perspective, or at least a biased headline are going to be things that get more clicks, which then in turn, get more ad dollars, which then propagates this cycle. And so I think there’s a there’s good reason for why I think news media now is not trusted like it was because I think people are starting to see through the behind the curtain a little bit, in terms of you guys aren’t telling the full story here. You’re trying to get me to, to bite, right? It’s always this baiting type scenario with news sources now. And so it it really is challenging to find places that are coming at this without that underlying motivation to get you riled up. Which is why I think what Denison form is doing is so important. And it’s not that we don’t have our own bias and motivation. Everybody brings a bias to the table. Ours just isn’t biased towards the political party. Ours is biased towards biblical truth, right. And so we don’t hide that we’re not trying to get around that people know, what are we, you know, we show our cards there. But everybody has some sort of bias. And so it’s important for us, even as we’re consuming news, from whatever source to understand the bias that that news source is coming from, if I if I watch or listen to Fox News, I know what their bias is and what they’re trying to sell me. If I watch CNN or read New York Times, I know what their biases and what they’re trying to sell me. And if I consume Dennison form, I know what our bias is, right? And what you’re trying to sell me and you know, to put it in kind of rough terms there. But it’s important, whatever source we’re engaging with, to understand, what is the agenda here? What is the motivation here, so we can kind of right size that and maybe try and undo some of the bias, or at least understand how you’re coming from a bit of a skewed opinion here.


Mark Turman  13:00

And that’s part of the real challenge of this, right? Because when you start talking about and we’ve we’ve all heard Jim talk about this as well about, okay, well, you’re just going to need to aggregate your news. Well, I start worrying, I’ve actually tried some of this tried to work on this and worked with various sources to try to do this. At some point, it just feels like it’s just too much trouble. Yeah, it’s just, okay, now I need to go listen to 246 different, I need to try to pull all of this together. And then I need to listen to it all, or read it all. And then I need to blend it all together and come up with what I think that just sounds way more overwhelming than what I have time to do on a daily basis. And so the temptation then becomes, I’m just checking out, I just, I don’t care about all of this. And God’s bigger than all of this anyway. So I’ll just, I’ll just walk away from it in that standpoint, which is not a healthy thing to do. And then the other thing, Josh, what you’re talking about is, none of us ever knew that this subtle change in the way that journalism works actually happened, right? When I was a kid, I had a paper route. And I sold subscriptions. And I would suspect in the longer run of, of history and media newspapers, many of these news outlets, particularly going back to the newspaper when newspapers were dominant, they had leanings. They certainly had leanings, right? But they were more subscription based with advertising on top of it. And now we flipped it around. And now you know, the people in business will tell you the number one job of being in business is to stay in business. And in the media world, in the journalism world, you have to sell ads, right? To be able to generate revenue to stay in business to hire your people and to do anything, you just have to stay in that world of selling ads, which is driven by clicks. Okay? And none of us real wised when that model flipped over. And, and where the advent of 24/7 news cycles and news outlets came in, and they are competing with each other no question. They’re competing with each other. I just keep wishing, especially when we come around to things like election time, that they would just be open and just say, this is the perspective we come from. Yeah. Right. And because as you said, there’s been a lot of work done and more work, probably coming of people pulling back the curtain and saying, Okay, this is where this outlet is really coming from. And I would just wish, they would just say, Hey, this is who we are. And when you come to us, you’re gonna get this perspective. And if there’s somebody out there that can crack the nut of aggregating for us, we might probably hold them in suspicion as well. Sure. But we, you know, that might help us all out a lot if we could, because everybody wants to tell, you know, we are an objective news source. Right, right. Yeah,


Mark Legg  16:03

I follow, there’s a couple of tools I use. One is all sides, which all sides does. One thing they report on is they will show you different headlines from different sides of the spectrum. So first thing they do is they will evaluate where they sit on the spectrum. And then they will show you one piece of news, kind of with their sides presented alongside it. So like you said, we might be suspicious of them, as well. But I think they do a pretty good job. And then another one I follow will show you what percent of everyone who’s reported on it is of each side, right? Because there is bias and how you report something. But there’s also bias and whether you report it at all right, right? And so especially for those stories that push a narrative forward, for instance, when it was there’s a really tragic story about a girl who was like 10 years old, who was pregnant and wanted to get an abortion, and she couldn’t, I don’t know if you guys remember that or not. And so Jim wrote on that and things, but when you looked at who reported on it, essentially, very, very few on the right side reported on at all right, and you can find that for the left as well. So there’s it’s just, it’s interesting that it’s not only what you’re reading, but also kind of this blindness, this intentional blindness to things that you don’t agree with. And when I think I appreciate about Dennis and forum, is that I feel as a writer, I feel the freedom, again, because yes, we want to get this out to a lot of people. Obviously, that’s what we’re trying to do. But we’re also we fundraise. Like, we don’t have to put ads on our articles, we don’t have to closely try to scrape every last second of page view that we can from someone by just and we want to write well, but we don’t want to write in that way. Where? Because, okay, so the fear thing works. And we could talk more about your book, talking about fear, I think and how we can find peace in politics, because the reason why people get it fear is because they’re trying to sell attention. Okay, they’re trying to get our attention. So what’s the best way to get someone’s attention? Fear. So if I see like a tiger in the bushes, okay, that and I’m just like out in the open in like some kind of, you know, Sahara setting, like, that activates my amygdala so much that it overrides everything else, because I’m literally going to die if I don’t make you know what I’m saying. Right. And so activating that in the most efficient way possible. And by the way, we’re doing it now with computers, that artificial intelligence is algorithms that are literally designed to do that for you. I mean, that’s just crazy to think about, in and of itself, and you think, Wow, that’s a bit of a bleak picture. So yeah, I think there is some feeling of hopelessness in that, like, when you look at what’s really going on, but at the same time, there are tools, you can take a step back. And so how do we combat fear? Josh and what have you looked at and peace in politics?


Josh Miller  19:28

Yeah, well, I think you’re hitting on something really important that that it’s that fight or flight response, right? Right. And you haven’t mentioned it there’s either this like let me hide and run away from this forget about this. Or let me go attack the threat right and so that’s what that’s what the news is trying to get out of us to some degree is this they want us to get polarized both politically get more on your that corner you’re in and both attack the person who’s responsible for the chaos you know, quote, unquote, chaos that’s happening. right now. And so what I think we can our call as Christians is to get beyond that.


Mark Turman  20:06

So I read a book a couple of years ago called fact fulness by Hans Rosling. He talks about that human beings are drama addicts. Yep. That, that we just, we get addicted to drama and we see drama. What’s one of the reasons we watch certain television shows is, why is it that we always have a police show? A hospital show a lawyer show a fireman show? Why is it because we’re caught up into the drama? Well, that could happen to me? And what would it be like if I was caught up into a situation like that? And so we’re kind of drama addicts. And then politics in the news kind of drive us and keep us in that. But just tell us a little bit before we get into some of the details. What was the motivation behind writing this? Yeah. Was it just cathartic for you? Were you targeted? Were you targeting a particular audience? What what brought about this writing project?


Josh Miller  21:04

Yeah, it really was cathartic. Initially, it was, started writing this around our last election, really, because I found myself caught up in that drama, I was trying to, you know, listen to these different news sources, both left and right, were saying, if this person gets elected, it’s the end of the world essentially. Just I mean, the this was the first time in my life, I had experienced an election where the stakes felt so high. And I didn’t feel like I chose that or like, tried to step into that drama. But just I think maybe it was just starting to have an awareness of politics even. And kind of listening to these news sources for kind of the first time, I started experiencing a ton of anxiety around it, both not knowing what to do not knowing who was right, internally conflicted around, really seeing issues on both sides, like, as much as both sides were promoting that this is the godly way. You know, some people would say that by voting Republican you’re, you’re voting how Jesus would vote, right? And then I’d hear people on and have friends on the other side saying, no, but if you’re you actually have to vote Democrat to vote like Jesus would vote because he would care for the least of these are the you know, all these, there’s both sides of this. And experiencing that kind of drama, both internally and relationally. With people for the first time in my life, I just had all these questions of how do I, how do I wrestle with this? How do I process this? How do I walk in a sense of peace and trust in the Lord? In a season that feels like it’s impossible to find? And so, so I honestly just this started as me journaling right around. Okay, what’s true? What’s actually what’s actually true in this season? Why am I experiencing this anxiety? How do I have these conversations with people that I don’t even know if I agree with or disagree with unknowns or even how I felt through I didn’t know how to how to have a conversation where I could stand on a position with as much confidence as some people were standing on positions. So yeah, really started wrestling with all these questions internally, knowing that it is not of God for me to be walking in anxiety in the political season. Right? That’s, that’s not.


Mark Turman  23:25

Yeah, that anxiety is not from him. Exactly. So we frame this for our audiences a little bit, just the we’re a multi-generational podcast today. Okay. So we’ll frame it this way. What was the first presidential election you either did vote in or were old enough to vote in? So for me, the first one is Ronald Reagan. Thank you. I go back that far. So because what brings this to mind is what you said a moment ago, it just being energized around this in a way that you hadn’t been energized around it before? Yeah. So Josh, first election, first presidential election, you could have voted in or know that you did vote in Yeah, it


Josh Miller  24:06

was the one where Obama’s first presidency was that first election, but even in that stage, you know, being in my early 20s, I didn’t even have hardliner awareness, right or care, frankly, I don’t know if it was just that stage of life for me. Or I was also traveling a lot at that stage. So it wasn’t heavily even watching the news much at that point. So I had an awareness that it was going on. I don’t I don’t honestly remember if I even voted,


Mark Turman  24:34

but not a deep engagement, correct? Yeah, correct.


Mark Legg  24:37

Yeah. And I, I’m gonna get totally roasted for this, but I think it was the 2020 election, because I think I barely missed the 2016 election. Okay, so that is pretty multigenerational. Yeah.


Mark Turman  24:52

So yeah. So now everybody knows who the old guy is in this conversation. Right? But, but what do you think Josh? If you look back on that now, what do you feel like generated so much of the anxiety? So much of the tension?


Josh Miller  25:07

Yeah, what the first realization I had, as I started to process this was that we’ve put politics in the wrong place in our lives. And it started with me personally, that I was putting so much weight on what happened in the election, that it started to feel like a is my future at stake type of election, and who am I putting my hope in, in this election. And so I began to realize that, that we’ve, at some point, and we’re seeing this in the church, said that politics and who was running our country had more weight on the future, our own future and security than even God. So it was really, I think, kind of usurping God’s authority and his role in our lives in that season to where I was going, okay. I don’t know if I’m really trusting God to take care of me that he has my future that he holds our nation, it was, well, if Trump gets elected, what how does that affect my future? How was my security, you know? So it was a lot of this wrestling where I first came to terms with, okay, something is completely out of whack here, from the very, the very foundational thing is out of whack here. So where we are putting way too much stock, and who the president is not ultimately realizing our ultimate authority and security comes from. So and I saw that in the church, that was honestly one of the the most maybe frustrating, and also uncomfortable things for me was seeing this not only play out in the secular arena, but even in churches.


Mark Turman  26:52

Yeah, so can you give us some examples, because we saw this equation start to emerge at multiple levels of, of our lives and of our culture around this interplay of anxiety and anger, right, and this, this kind of big umbrella of tension, but anxiety and anger. And one things I learned from a family counselor years ago was is that anger is usually a mask for fear. It’s usually a mask for anxiety. And when we get afraid, we either we’ll run away if the flight mentality, or we will fight. But what’s behind it is we’re, we’re angry, because we’re afraid and we’re angry that we are afraid or something or somebody has made us afraid. Yeah. And that becomes part of our response to that. So what did you see that in congregational life or within other relationships? What did you see manifestations of either the anxiety or the anger? Or the two of them working together?


Josh Miller  27:54

Yeah. And you’re totally right. Anger is always a secondary emotion. So whenever we’re experiencing anger in some sort, it’s important for us to stop and go, what’s the root of this? Yeah, some of my, my most angry times usually came from insecurity, where I got either embarrassed or was uncomfortable worried about how I appeared. That was my personal struggle, especially my youth have, am I looking bad? Or am I coming across poorly, and then I’d get angry if somebody contributed to me looking bad. And so initially, I only understood the anger and that person was bad for making me look bad, right? Until I, you know, took some some time and some therapy to understand that actually, I’m just really insecure about these things. I need to work on that. But I saw this play out in the church, where a lot of people weren’t doing that processing going, Why am I angry, but instead just found the villains, the people to be angry at. And, unfortunately, that was turning to other people in the church, which was the most sad part of it. For me, it was to watch people worshiping together on Sunday morning, and then on a Tuesday evening, viciously attacking each other on Facebook. And I’m going, how does this how do these two things go together? Right, how are we, the family of God loving one another here to serve his kingdom, trusting in him putting our hope in Him. And then on Tuesday evening, calling each other names because they disagree on a political issue. It was really just disorienting for me to see this kind of disconnect. And this I think there was this season where people became almost split in who they were. They had this church life where we were about God, and we were for him and wanting to live for him. And then we had this political life where we were acting like different people and have different priorities.


Mark Turman  29:55

Worst experience or expression of compartmentalizing Yeah. Hey, we’re like this on Sunday and Sunday morning, but we’re gonna be like this Sunday afternoon or Monday night on our keyboard.


Josh Miller  30:06

Yeah. And we all have we all live that to some degree, right? I’ve seen that before, in terms of, you know, we talked about giving our money on Sunday, but then we’re very consumeristic. On the weekday, you know, there’s always, obviously, full integrity is where we’re the same person all the time in all places. And so there’s always, I think, we all lack a little bit in that way. And it’s always a pursuit. So we want to be Integris people everywhere we go. But I had never seen such a dichotomy in one that turned so vicious to where it was not only that we’re not quite living in an integrated life, but we’re also going to attack anybody who thinks differently on not even what I would call the main most important issues. So it was very, very disorienting season for me. And so yeah, I was writing that book, both to find some sense of inner peace and kind of a true north of what what is true in this season, and to kind of right size politics, to know, to be able to come to the place of saying, regardless of what happens in this election, I know that my hope and my trust is in Jesus. Honestly, that was part of the step I had to get back to that to say, regardless of what happens, God is in control, right, which had gotten flipped to where it didn’t wasn’t feeling that way on my day to day life. So that was the first part of that process for me. And then the second was, how do we get the church back to a place where we can all say that together collectively, that regardless of what happens, we are still the body of Christ, right. And to get to a spot to where we can actually be a place where we have disagreements amongst each other, and still not have those be divisive. You know, can we exist in the same place, worship the same God live for what’s most important, even if we don’t agree even on something as man as I would say, important, it’s like a Roe v. Wade issue as an abortion issue. Right. Obviously a big deal issue. But there are people in our churches that think differently about that issue. Can we be in relationship? Is it possible? Is it possible to have conversations with one another to love each other? Even if we strongly disagree? About what is the right thing?


Mark Turman  32:41

Are we going to take an all or nothing position? Yeah.


Josh Miller  32:45

And where? Is there a right time to take an all or nothing position? These are the kinds of questions I was wrestling with in that season, and especially


Mark Legg  32:52

with politics, because it’s one thing to say that abortion is a moral wrong. It’s definitely not part of following Jesus, like, we can have a lot of those answers that are much more clear from Scripture, we can still potentially, like you said, disagree on them, even though we have strong thoughts about them. But obviously, we have taken up positions in some form on that. But there’s an extra step even in the political side, because it’s not self evident. I mean, you could make the straightforward case, well, it should be illegal, it’s murder. Okay. And I think there is some truth to that kind of argument. But at the same time, another believer may have a different idea about the politics aspect, even if they agree about the abortion itself, right. It’s complex. So something that you could touch on at some point, as well as like the humility aspect, because I find myself the more I study, the more I think it’s, it is shocking that people have such strong opinions on things that are so complex. Yeah. So you have that curve, right? Where you start to learn about something. I don’t know if you guys have known, like, see this, but like, you start to learn about something, and you have a high confidence in your opinion. And then the more and more and more you learn, the less and less confident you become because you learn there’s so many different sides to something, and then you start to slowly get that back. But it’s over a years that you slowly get that back. And so it is I think that may be where the anger comes into play as people actually aren’t as confident as they think about their political opinions. But they put it out there very strongly. Like, I believe this. And then if someone pokes a little hole in that, because it turns out, they actually haven’t done as much research as they thought they have. That’s where the insecurity comes in. And then the anger comes in. And by the way, I’m talking about myself here, you know.


Mark Turman  34:43

Yeah, and because the, the lack of certainty actually makes us more anxious. Yes, right. It’s right. So we feel like we have to say it strongly and and express it and claim clarity even when we don’t have it because the lack of Sir Cindy makes us more insecure and and leaves us feeling unmoored. It makes it makes us feel like we’re we don’t know what’s going to happen yet. But I, I love what you’re saying about, you know, many of these things that we’ve had some really significant divisiveness within families. I don’t know if you guys experienced this on a family level, or among friends within the congregation, I heard somebody say, a few months back, you know, what we’ve learned is that are many of our congregations had been held together by political ideology, way more than theology. And this is kind of it didn’t cause it, but it exposed it, and and has brought it out. But, you know, even on a family level, having experienced that, and then trying to figure out well, how do we work our way through this. But when you start talking about scale, and this is, again, where we get back to some of the problems and opportunities relative to the media, we are talking about a country of 335 million people, right? Very diverse, kind of very diverse country of 335 million people. And we’re talking about a world of more than 6 billion people, right? And we ought to be as Christians concerned about every one of them, not just not just our little group of people. But we ought to be concerned about, you know, what, is this good for the people in Australia or Bangladesh or China? Are we are we trying to build a world that’s just good for us? Or for me? Are we trying to build a world? That’s really good for everybody? Well, the Christian perspective would be how do we think about everybody in this? Sure. And when you start thinking at scale, then it gets even more complex. Right? Right. on a political basis, and that type of thing. And yet, we want to claim and maybe the media drives us in this direction, some way that Oh, no, I have clarity, because I heard XYZ person report on this. And that must be the way it is. Yeah. So I’m going to claim absolutely absolute certainty on something I have minimal information about.


Mark Legg  37:07

Yeah. And it’s also an an OT, or should, it’s implicit in that, because you, you don’t just say, you know, there’s reporting on this, but then you add the extra layer of interpreting. And then the extra layer of saying this is how it should be applied. And like you said, in this scale, where you’re talking about at federal level, you’re talking about laws that apply to a clothes, a clothing designer in New York, New York, and to have rancher in the middle of West Texas, right. Okay. So think about, like, Are you really so confident that, you know, the best laws that could incorporate that many people and obviously, there’s there should be a grounding to morality, and moral, like, morals are universal, in that sense, but but the application of politics is still another step. You know, that’s tough to wrestle with, for sure. And there’s an art like, it’s not just this is what happened. But there’s a this is what should happen. And that’s, it’s complex.


Josh Miller  38:11

Yeah. But I think the humility point is huge, right? Because I think when you become prideful and arrogant, II think My way is the right route the right way. And I think you’ve already lost to some degree. Yeah, because I think we’ve already probably oversimplified an argument, we’ve probably are seeing it from a particular worldview, you know, maybe seeing it from the the rancher in West Texas and not thinking about the person in New York, we’ve likely oversimplified if we’re going, this is the one and only way this is the right way, this is the perfect way and every other way is wrong. Now, again, there are moral conversations. And even on those clear moral issues, the application of how you actually put that into practice can be different. So even like, which I don’t know if this was on your list, but the like immigration issue would be another that’s been rising up to the surface right now that especially on the right side, that’s being promoted as this is the, you know, this is gonna be the end of the US if we don’t solve this immigration issue, and it’s all the less fault, right. So even on an issue like that, I think all of us from a moral standpoint, would say, we need to care for those less fortunate than us right now, obviously, from a biblical standpoint. You know, from there’s from a secular humanist standpoint of less care for those less fortunate, there’s a biblical standpoint of caring for the least of these caring for the poor. Obviously, we are called to do that. But then you start asking, but how, how do we do that? What’s the is there a moral way to do that? And I don’t think the answer is yes, I think there are lots of different ways that that can apply. And so even if we have something that from a moral standpoint, we feel really solid and secure on from political standpoint, the way we apply that are trying to approach the problem can be very complex, you know, is it the role of the government? Isn’t the role of the church? How is it the role of the States or the federal, you know, those are all very nuanced conversations and questions all have pros and cons to them in terms of application. And so even if we can agree on a moral point, we may find ourselves disagreeing on the actual application. And so again, it comes back to that humility, around, I don’t have this all figured out, right? I’m obviously trying to honor the Lord and what I’m doing and what and make the best decision I can. But there is still conversation to be had and how this actually plays out.


Mark Turman  40:39

Yeah, well, one of the things made me think when you’re talking that comes to mind is is I’ve recently been working through and even teaching from John nine, where there’s a story of, of Jesus walking through this community and see sees a man born blind, okay, and, and part of the foundation of the story is, nobody ever heard of someone who would actually be born blind getting their sight. For the first time in Jesus performs this miracle. But it starts off in this conversation, Jesus sees this person points him out. And the disciples who are closest to him say, well, whose fault is it? Is it the demand the demand sin somewhere like before he was even born to the sin, or what I think was more likely their conclusion? Well, his parents must have sinned. And now that’s why their son was born blind. Right? And I love Jesus’s response. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way, he says, You’re asking the wrong question. And what we should be thinking about here is how can God be glorified in this man’s life and in this situation that he finds himself in? And then he goes forward with the miracle and all that, but it made me just think, particularly in a lot of our conversations around political issues, in our families, and around our country, is that we’re just trying to figure out well, who do we blame? Because once we’ve come up with the explanation, we can be done with this. Yeah, we don’t have to go into the further steps like an immigration of okay, well, what are we going to do we have 10s of 1000s of people at the southern border, trying to get into our country, because their situation in their in their country is so bad, that they feel like they have to, you know, they have to pay a cartel $10,000 For three attempts to get across the border. Because if they, if their choices are go home to what I was in, or pay this $10,000, I’ll pay the $10,000. And having some understanding of that, and trying to find compassion in that. Whereas a lot of times, we’re kind of like those apostles, now, we just need to figure the problem out, assign blame. And then once we found assigned blame, we can just walk on and absolve ourselves of any more involvement. Because well, that’s just their thing. That’s not our thing. No, it’s It’s our thing. And, and sometimes we just don’t want to get that far in. We don’t want to get that involved. We would just like to come up with an explanation that we can sleep with.


Josh Miller  43:08

It’s a lot easier when we dehumanize others, right. It’s what the news is trying to do as well. It’s not the news is not trying to help you see people they’re trying to help you. They’re trying to call it an issue, you know. And so, as Christ followers, what Jesus did that was so different, he saw people than others wrote off as an issue, right? It’s just a blind guy, somebody’s fault, you know, not worth my time where Jesus stopped and saw a person. And I think that’s our call as believers is to say, this may be, you know, the news, maybe trying to call this some kind of major issue is just numbers. It’s just data. It’s just this, but it’s, it’s people, right? People, child, Child’s children of God, you know, and one of the thing questions we ask in the book is, what do you think of when you think of somebody on the opposite side of the political aisle? How do you see them as an opponent? Or do you see them as a as a child of God, because I think that’s what I was witnessing in our churches is, all of a sudden, they were no longer brothers and sisters in Christ, they were now just the enemy blank, generic enemy that wasn’t an individual with their own experiences and their own backgrounds and their own pain that they’ve walked through that may be shaping their own worldview, there was no place for nuance or understanding or seeing the person.


Mark Turman  44:28

Let me chase it out with you for just a second from the standpoint of because one of the things I’ve been thinking about in this area is we’ve even gone so far as to say they’re not simply my enemy. They’re evil. Yeah. And from a biblical standpoint, you start when you start getting into this category and Dr. Jim and I had some conversation about this as well. When you go that step, okay. And you turn this into a good versus evil kind of an equation, you’re in a different sphere. You You’re in a different category. And that’s we seem to have gone there in rapid order. That if you vote for this person, you’re not just wrong. You’re you’re supporting and engaging with evil.


Josh Miller  45:17

Isn’t you’re trying to put God on your side too. It goes back to that humility issue right? There evil than I am. Right? I am good. I am holy. Yes. Yeah. So it’s dangerous, right, not only to vilify others. But what that does, in you to say, No, I know what’s right. I’m in the right is a really dangerous path to why


Mark Turman  45:37

it feels like and we’d love you all to comment on this, it feels like to me at times a very flippant, theology of evil. A very dangerous way to handle the concept of evil. Because the way we I think we would generally default think about this theologically is is with well, if it’s evil, it needs to be destroyed. Yeah. And because one of the things you talk about in your book is just how vicious and we can even go so far as to say at times violent, things have become even with, with people who would tell you that they are Christians. But they start to endorse whether it’s in an online social media conversation, or even actually out in the street of their community. They actually demonstrate levels of viciousness, and at times violence that are just startling. Yeah.


Mark Legg  46:34

And I think I view a lot of this as an opportunity. Because the culture has its eye on us. And, Josh, if what you were saying earlier about how you would see people live one way on Sunday and another way on Tuesday on Facebook, when they’re talking about politics, with the same brothers and sisters that they went to church with? What if that wasn’t the case? Then how would our witness be magnified, there’s a chance for Christians to be to press into, hey, we see a lot of racial tension and a lot of issues around that. But our church is multi ethnic, and our church around the world, a global church is multi ethnic. And Jesus is the one that unites us. And that’s testament to Jesus’s power. Same thing about politics, like, we can disagree about politics, but look at how amazing Jesus is that he overcomes even this divisiveness. Like I just say, I see it as an opportunity for us to be able to step up and promote peace and and joy and that we find that Jesus.


Josh Miller  47:42

Yeah, at some point, we should have a conversation just about the technology aspect of this. I think it’d be really helpful for people around social media. Yeah,


Mark Turman  47:50

I just wanted to go there for a few minutes. Yeah, like your thoughts? Because, you know, it’s, we have a few more just few more minutes for a couple of questions, just talking about technology, for example, and how that is aiding and abetting or driving or how it’s influencing some of this conversation.


Josh Miller  48:05

Yeah, well, I think one thing that was really helpful for me to understand when it comes to especially social media, but it also applies to these ad based news, websites and stations as well, is that if any substance subscription based news source, the product is the actual information. So you are paying for a service, they are delivering a product, which is news, and then ad based scenario, like what you see on Facebook, or what you see on some of the, you know, click Beatty, website, news websites, you are the product. So what we we don’t always get this, right, we think, Oh, I’m going there. And they’re providing me a new service. No,


Mark Turman  48:51

no, see, I like even when you say it, I don’t get it. So like explain it to me.


Josh Miller  48:54

So like, normally, when you buy a product, you pay money and are handled a product, right? We think with Facebook, who are you paying? You’re not paying anybody, right? That’s a free service. That should be a red flag right there. Right? No, because that’s nobody’s giving you a free product on Facebook. What’s happening with Facebook is that the advertiser, advertisers are paying Facebook for a product and they are delivering Facebook is delivering you. So what


Mark Turman  49:23

I’m the one thing I am paying is attention. Yes, right?


Josh Miller  49:27

That’s right. You are, you are the end product that could because those advertisers want you to change your behavior either through what you’re buying, what you’re subscribing to. So we’re trying to get money out.


Mark Turman  49:39

Let me see if I can frame this the way that I’m hearing you Okay, which is okay, what you’re saying is, is Facebook comes and says or Instagram or the others, comes and comes to this group of advertisers who have products they want to say and say look, I can give you what you most want, which is I can deliver to you the attention Yep, I have this large number of people, you pay me X dollars and I will bring you their attention. That’s correct.


Mark Legg  50:07

And by the way, if you’re following up Facebook group, that’s with motorcycles, that’s about motorcycles. Okay. I mean, I’m pretty sure they can give advertisers that information as well. Absolutely. So Harley Davidson knows to put an advertisement to you targeted to you specifically.


Josh Miller  50:21

So Harley Davidson is shopping on Facebook going, I’m looking for these, this type of person, this is who I’m trying to buy today.


Mark Legg  50:30

I don’t know why that came away.


Mark Turman  50:33

saying, I’m looking for the 59 year old midlife guy, looking for some fresh fun. We’re gonna introduce him to motorcycles,


Josh Miller  50:40

yes. So they go, we actually have that for sale today, there’s this group of people that you can reach with your advertisement. And so that person comes on to Facebook, thinking that they are getting a service from Facebook, when in fact they are the product. And so why that’s important is to know what people are trying to do, what is Facebook trying to do, they are trying to keep you on Facebook as long as they can. And the way they do that is by presenting content to you, that is going to capture you. Right and so, and what, again, what we’ve talked about already, the content that’s going to capture you is the stuff that is triggering that fight or flight response, right. That’s why there’s been so much stuff in so many conversations around trying to get Facebook and other social media platforms to kind of moderate what kind of content is on there. Because they know that Facebook is actually exacerbating this anger problem and this division problem, right, because they make more money, when they can keep you on there longer and serve you to more advertisers. So just as a general, kind of rule of thumb for people, which I think is it was helpful for me at least. But if you are using a service that is free, you are the product as a general rule. And so again, what that means is that they are not trying to serve your best interest, they are trying to serve the advertisers best interest. So it’s different with like, like, there’s a difference between like a New York Times, which obviously, we know their political leaning, but they are a subscriber based, right new source, there’s a very different type of content delivery there than there is on some of these other sites that are ads running all the way down the screen, the ones that you’re going to see on your, you know, on your Facebook feed, things like that, that are coming up using ADS, there’s a very different approach there, and a different business model altogether. And so just really important, I just recommend people if you are trying to figure out how to engage with the news, especially digitally, to find a couple of reputable sources that you can actually pay a subscription to. And what you’re doing is you’re actually you’re not becoming a product that’s getting manipulated to serve somebody else’s purpose.


Mark Turman  53:05

So you’re actually you’re actually freeing up that news source to operate in a different way. Correct. That might serve your interests better. Correct. So in Joshua, last few minutes that we have here, where does your book land in terms of hope in things like that, and other things that you say, Hey, we should approach this biblically from this standpoint, I think we’ll be healthier.


Josh Miller  53:30

Well, yeah, the the first thing we’ve already talked about, which is just we need to right size politics right now, our limits, regardless of who wins the election, they’re not in control. They, they have Yeah, they that individual has their limits, our government has its limits. And as we’ve seen all sorts of world events can change the course of not only our nation, but the world. So our hope cannot be in our government, our hope cannot be in a political leader, they will fail us even if we get our way. They will fail us and they’re not as powerful as we think we are. So especially as believers, we have to first remember that it is God who’s in control. And even if we don’t get our way, even if the person we want doesn’t get elected, our hope doesn’t change.


Mark Turman  54:15

And the truth is, is that if any of us got to be king for a day, we would disappoint ourselves. Yes, that’s


Josh Miller  54:21

right. Yeah. And then from just an internal peace standpoint, another thing I really recommend people do is disable all notifications on your devices. So like, you know, if you have the CNN app, or the Fox News app, or even New York Times, whatever, those if you have notifications turned on on your phone, they have control over your attention. They decide when you’re engaging with them, instead of you deciding when you engage with them. So you’re giving any app that you allow notifications on you are giving them power to interrupt your life. interrupt your inner peace. Interrupts what you’re Are your daily walk. And so I’d highly recommend, especially if you struggle to walk in peace and in like political seasons like this, make sure you’re not allowing notifications on your devices. If you want to find a time you want to read the news, and go read it, find the time you won’t engage and let that be the time and try and turn it off. So I have, by default, just about everything turned off on my phone in terms of notification. So I choose when I want to engage with the news. And if it’s too much, I turn it off. And it when I’m ready to engage again, I will, instead of them controlling that, again, I don’t want to be the product, I want to have choice and autonomy over when I’m going to engage in that. And then the third thing I really encourage people to do is to find some way to take action. So one of the things that can be so frustrating and seasons like this is you can feel but helpless to make any kind of difference, or any kind of change, you know. And even if you’re in a state that leans real far, one way or the other, even your vote can feel kind of useless at times. But we have the ability to, to actually step out and take action. And maybe you know if abortion is your issue, you can probably make a more tangible difference in actually going and serving somewhere you go then you can with your logo find


Mark Turman  56:25

a clinic to help with or some other Yeah, become a part of the advocacy arm of it. Whatever the case, yeah,


Josh Miller  56:30

time, talent, treasure, right, you can use your time, you can use your talents, your skills, and you can use your money, maybe, maybe you don’t have the time or the talents. But you have, you can help support a ministry that does or vice versa. And so what we don’t want is for us to feel hopeless, and feel like we have no stake in this. We are the hands and feet of Jesus, we are salt and light in this world. And so we can’t just sit back on our computer screens or on our phones and go, Man, the world is going to pot you know, I hope it doesn’t get you know, over doesn’t come here. Yeah, totally. It’s no okay, how can I, as a representative of Christ make a difference? And maybe that’s with our neighbor, maybe that’s what their family maybe that’s with our church. But us taking some sort of action gives gives us back some autonomy. Again, being able to do something


Mark Turman  57:25

I love what you’re saying there is a per tree we’ll talk about what you can do is the stuff that you can do right outside your front door and inside your own family to help reweave community Yep, we keep in you guys have probably heard this before, we have now started arguing about and dividing ourselves up over big national and global issues that we really can’t know that much about or do that much about unless and until God might put us into some of those environments. But we brought that into the local level. Right? And it’s discouraged us that, that almost all hope is lost. When what you’re saying Josh is look, go volunteer at your church and work with teenagers or work with kids or go to this part of your community get involved and help make your your community better. And then it will be better. Yeah,


Josh Miller  58:20

we’re not victims. And yeah, we don’t have to be


Mark Turman  58:23

victims of all of this. We actually can we have agency and we can become involved. And then the other part of that, that reminded me as well. Something is what you feed yourself. You know, in the last six, seven months, I’ve gotten a lot more joyful by not watching the evening news as the last thing before I go to sleep, which is something I learned from my parents, right? Oh, you just don’t go to sleep till you watch the 10 o’clock news. And why would you do that when it’s largely negative, and almost all my sports teams lose anyway. So why do they always end with sports, which is what they that’s the carrot they hold you out to? And then basically most of the news about my teams is bad. So why would I want to go to sleep on that? Yeah. And you know, and why would I want to be restricted to 10 o’clock? When I can get news anytime I want it? So why don’t I choose instead of letting them choose for me,


Josh Miller  59:16

it’s important to do that little bit of reflection kind of do an audit of what’s bringing me peace, what’s making me more Christ like and then what on the other side is creating anxiety, making me not love my neighbor more, that you’ll you’ll find certain things that are fruitful and certain things that aren’t and make changes, you know, I’ve had to do the same thing. Especially during you know, the first year the pandemic was watching a lot of news and it created a lot of anxiety once I took that out of my routine. Like oh, life isn’t so bad. Maybe things are gonna be okay. It’s amazing when you start to just notice how certain things are affecting, affecting your mind and your heart how you can make adjustments and walk more in peace.


Mark Legg  1:00:02

Yeah. And we’re not saying to just completely walk away from it. You know, that’s not what any of us, we’re all for talking about these things with thoughtfulness and humility. And it’s interesting, what you talked about is mostly it’s obedience, like going out and serving in your community in some way or loving your neighbors in a tangible way. Is not optional. Like that’s obedience to the Lord. And so, those are some really great thoughts. Yeah, yeah, like weight sharing that not surprising oughta bring us peace and joy, right? So surprisingly, toward those things, right. obedience always does that. Yes. Right. And makes us more secure as well. Guys, thanks


Mark Turman  1:00:40

for the conversation. Here on the Denison forum. You can find this podcast wherever podcasts are available, please rate review us and share this with others. And you’ll find Josh’s book peace and politics in the show notes. You can click on the digital link and download it that way. And guys, again, thanks for being a part of the conversation today. My pleasure. Thanks, Mark.


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