Would James Approve?

James 4:11-12

“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it…

But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

This post is a little church-y and speaks of politics. If you dislike either, look away now.

My every-other-Wednesday ladies’ church group has been studying the book of James during the last three sessions. As I was reading through Chapter 4 for this week’s gathering, the words above hit a serious chord and reminded me of the season we are in.

Political ad season.

Since the Primary Elections in Wisconsin earlier this month, the loud and proud negative ads are non-stop on TV, radio, and social media. One ad came streaming out from Pandora on Saturday in between Pentatonix and Adele. I was not amused, nor was I swayed into joining that particular political army.

I despise negative political ads. I compare them to fingernails on the blackboard, the drone of loud obnoxiousness, and the repetitive MeMeMeMeMeMeMe in the high-pitched voice of Beaker from the Muppets.

Then again, as much as people say they hate negative ads, the psychology of them is interesting. From Psychology Today:

“Evidence suggests we are affected by attack ads. To save face we often tell our friends that we dislike them, but in reality the public’s perception of negative advertising is nuanced. For instance, one study showed that 70 percent of people believe candidates have a right to point out the weaknesses of their opponent, but about 45 percent say doing so is unethical.

More importantly, research suggests negative ads not only contain more information than positive ads, they also are more memorable and useful. For instance, one study found that voters experiencing elevated levels of negative advertising were more knowledgeable about issues and more likely to use issue knowledge in vote choice than voters with little exposure to negative advertising. In other words, the voters who experienced greater negativity were more like what many of us think of as “ideal citizens” than voters who experienced more “gentlemanly” races.”

I’m with the 45 percent unethical people, but not with the 70 percent who think it’s okay to point at others over their imperfections and mistakes. I tend to hear slander in these ads, from both sides of the political aisle. It’s finger-pointing, school-yard posturing in order to win a seat for a political career. It’s enough that we take political sides on social media, but what would the world be like if we all used negative ads when vying for a job? And would we keep said jobs if we continued to post harsh words on Facebook and Twitter about our boss and co-workers?

I do not feel knowledgeable about issues from listening to these ads, but perhaps I can gain knowledge by checking the truth of negative ads on sites such as Politifact.com or FactCheck.org. Or by not relying on only one news source. A friend of mine, although liberal, reads conservative sites as well. It give her both knowledge and insight into the platforms of both parties.

I tend to be a pessimist at the validity of what is being said because I’ve heard too many half-truths and lies from these ads, so research is required to separate fact from fiction, or at least have an even perspective.

“Jesus said the laws of God are summed up in the commands to love God and to love our neighbor. By slandering someone, we place ourselves above the law of love, justifying our actions by a standard different from God’s.”

Would James approve of the negative ads? Would he see judgment in them?

If I ruled the world, positive ads would be the law. Candidates would only be able to speak truthfully of themselves. Special interest groups would be outlawed and the right or left news agencies would be held accountable for slandering their party’s opponents. Politics and campaigns would be civilized, respectful and a lot less histrionic.

I can dream, right?

With that, my advice for U.S. citizens, Wisconsinites, and anyone who has to suffer negative ads of a political campaign is this: Do not listen to the talking heads and their spin. Do not embrace the negativity. Access unbiased or moderate websites and fact-checking organizations that will tell you the truth about your candidate. Do this with eyes wide open and without preconceived ideas from the harsh words of candidates.

Vote according to knowledge, absolute truth, and with love for the people in the polling line who may not agree with you.

Exercise your democratic gift in a way that James himself would approve.

19 responses to Would James Approve?

  1. Political signs are everywhere, visitors from other states are arriving and talking about the next presidential election, and I received my first unsolicited political phone call this week. I prefer not to comment on politics, but since we’re talking, the entire campaign process is broken. But, is there anyone, anywhere, who will take that project on? I don’t think so. So, your advice is solid – “Vote according to knowledge, absolute truth, and with love for the people in the polling line who may not agree with you.” And, just maybe James will say a prayer for all of us.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I tried extremely hard not to sound biased in my post because politicians from both sides are guilty of condoning the negative ads. In today’s climate, the negativity feels even worse, and grating, like a buzzsaw to the head. The political parties will not stop this and neither will their special interest groups. It’s so unloving and unethical and mean…and I could go on and on. But I will take my own advice, along with frequently pressing the mute button.

  2. dweezer19 says:

    Maybe they can’t find enough good things to say about themselves so it seems easier to attack. It’s all a sad state of affairs for the voters, but seriously not a lot different from history if you look back at times which included the Taft Affair, Watergate, etc. The biggest difference, as I see it, is no one is even bothering to say what positive things they will do if elected. Maybe too much mud in their Mouths and under their fingernails. 😕

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I agree with the mud theory. It’s called distraction or diversion, Cheryl. The politician distracts from their own mud in order to make themselves look better. They should be able to say what they are going to do for their constituents, but they’d rather sling the mud. It will probably never go away and that makes me sad over the state of the human condition in politics.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    “…research is required” – I think that sums it up. I try to find the facts and make up my own mind. I vote for the person I think is the best candidate for the job, regardless of party affiliation. I mute all ads, and I watch none of the talking heads.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Good for you Dan! It’s been difficult to keep up with the national news and not want to cover my ears.

  4. Joanne Sisco says:

    It’s really hard to conduct a clean campaign when your opponent is slinging manure and unfortunately people are more likely to repeat a bad story than a good story.

    Yes, politics is broken. The current political environment has demonstrated that politicians can say whatever outrageous thing they want with impunity. Until our politicians are truly held accountable for their lies and half-truths (ie legally, financially), nothing will change. Of course that’s never going to happen 😕

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I agree Joanne. We will not see a change any time soon or ever. I often wonder what one of our founding fathers would think of today’s U.S. political system and politicians. I can’t imagine it would be good.

  5. Susan Scott says:

    Good points Mary thank you … remove the log from one’s own eye and so on. It happens here in South Africa too ..mud slinging from all political parties. I used to be hugely interested in our local news but now – I wish I was an ostrich.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You are welcome, Susan. The negativity causes a catch 22 of sorts…you want to watch the news to know what’s happening, but the political garbage makes us want to turn off the TV.

  6. joey says:

    When I read your title in the email, I thought, “What James? James who?” and also some sweary stuff about why should I care what James thinks?!?
    Oh, THAT James. Yeah. Gotcha.
    Politics is icky now. As Dweezer wrote, muddy. As Judy wrote, broken.
    I am perfectly capable of observing and finding faults, injustices, and hypocrisies without having them pointed out to me. I generally prefer to spend my energy on the happy, positive, light-bearing bits. Now and again, I lika sling some mud. There IS a really big elephant in the room…

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Politics is icky.
      Unfortunately when the November elections are over, the Presidential candidates and their ads will start to ramp up.

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