Two ruckuses that have occupied our society the past couple of weeks have gotten me thinking a lot about truth. One came from the Left and one from the Right. One was Liz Cheney’s loss, one student loan debt forgiveness.
Depending on your political leanings, hold on, because I’m going to be equal opportunity here. My point is neither to argue whether debt forgiveness is good nor Liz Cheney is bad, but to think about what is actually happening in those situations.
First, debt forgiveness. I’ve seen all kinds of ridiculous takes justifying it. There are plenty of ways to advocate for it, to be sure, noting the problems with our current system that the government has made artificially easy to get loans in. We might rightly question subjugating minors or just barely of majority age people to decades of debt payments no one would ever approve them for in any other setting.
But wherever one lands, let’s be honest about what “loan forgiveness” does: it takes money from some citizens and gives that money to others who happen to have the loans. The money must come from somewhere, whether via an immediate tax funded action or a new heaping pile of national debt to be paid later. No matter, the result is the same. It costs money.
It also isn’t equivalent to a tax cut “for the rich.” Tax cuts reduce how much money the government takes from someone out of what they earned. This is instead government gifting money people didn’t have.
Neither of these points is a moral judgment on the act; they do not make a forgiveness plan automatically right or wrong. But, if we care about the truth, we ought to admit what we’re doing and then analyze it on that basis. If our student loan system is really that bad then, it should justify the solution without having to pretend the solution isn’t what it is.
Oh, and those who have tried to make this theological to one up Bible toting GOP card carriers, hold your horses. It isn’t equivalent to grace in Christianity. Assuming student loans aren’t immoral from the get-go, the Bible has no problem with people having to earn the things they want. Check out passages like 1 Thess. 3:10 and Psalm 37:21. God’s grace is about the gift of forgiveness of sins — crimes — we could never make right and being able to rejoice in fellowship with God, not getting free handouts on things we would rather not earn.
That doesn’t mean debt forgiveness is contrary to Christian principles, but let’s not make a mandate where there is just opportunity.
So far, I’ve probably irritated my left leaning friends, though notice: I haven’t argued for or against student loan forgiveness — just asked we admit what it is. My request cuts both ways, so I will now irritate my right leaning friends.
There are several recent political fights that come to mind, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just consider Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary loss to a President Trump-endorsed opponent. I’m surprised I am now seeing people try to argue that Cheney lost for some reason other than her non-support of Trump and conviction that January 6 was a serious problem worthy of investigation.
When I pointed out untruthful narratives on Cheney’s defeat on Twitter, I heard back from fellow Christians — we should care about truth as people who claim to follow the God of truth — how it was really a vote about how she had betrayed various conservative principles. This is… absurd. Anyone who has been following the Cheney family over the years knows they are neoconservatives, not necessarily strong social conservatives or super Evangelical politicos or anything like that.
This lukewarm social conservatism wasn’t a secret when she won overwhelmingly two years ago. Back then, the congresswoman won her primary by nearly fifty points and her general election by nearly the same. Nor was it a secret 20 years prior when her dad got the VP nomination and won alongside President George W. Bush.
So, the idea she went left on social issues and lost isn’t really facing reality.
What changed between 2020 and now? One thing of any note: she went utterly in on anti-Trump rhetoric. She realized her impeachment vote and January 6 Select Committee involvement all but sealed her fate, so she seemed to just own that part of herself and go down in a blaze of glory.
Depending on your view of President Trump, that can be seen as good or bad. But, as with student loan debt, let’s admit what happened. Cheney lost not because she became less conservative and not because she became less religious — her foe isn’t terribly religious either! — but because she opposed said foe.
Is that a legitimate reason to lose an election? I’ll let other people argue that. But, just as the “student loan forgiveness” advocates want to claim their push isn’t about taking money from other taxpayers because that isn’t popular to say, so too the anti-Cheney folks realize it sounds bad to say Cheney lost only because she disliked Trump.
When it all boils down, these stories just all point to depressingly to a lack of care for the truth. It matters more to say what sounds good rather than advocating for whatever is good. Forgive loans or not. Elect Cheney or not. But let’s abandon the politicians’ truth distortion and start admitting what things really are, even when it makes our side look bad.
Maybe then stuff that really is good would triumph.
Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. He also serves as a pastor at Little Hills Church and FaithTree Christian Fellowship.
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