Over the weekend I read Carl Trueman’s new book Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative. Basically, to give you an idea who this book is mainly for, it breaks out into two groups of people:
- Those who love Glenn Beck
- Those who hate Glenn Beck
I could I suppose add a third category for those people who are indifferent, but since the book is about politics, it wouldn’t really interest indifferent people.
Beck is mentioned sparingly in the book, so don’t get the impression the book is all about him. He is just a good organizing principle that helps divide the landscape at the moment.
Trueman, to give a bit of background, is British, and came here several years back to teach at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. Because of the our current political climate, he found himself rather isolated, as he is very adamantly pro-life and anti-gay marriage which are typical conservative Republican positions.
However, as for other political positions, he essentially holds to those that aim at helping the oppressed (his categorization) which he sees as being a part of the liberal party here in America (i.e. the Democrats). As a result, he is somewhat politically homeless here.
He goes on to make some great points with regard to our current political landscape. It’s a short book that I would encourage you to read for yourself, and at $5.99 it’s a great buy.
There are several things I could highlight about this book, and probably will do more in the coming weeks. But to pick one, perhaps most illuminating is his distinction between “neutrality” and “objectivity.” We unfortunately tend to treat these as synonymous, but as a trained historian Trueman helps to clarify:
I like to argue in class that in writing of history, no one can be neutral, but historians can be objective. We write narrative from a variety of perspectives; we are all biased to some extent; but these perspectives are publicly testable by established methods of historical verification and falsification. Some historians reject this distinction, but no reputable historian of whom I am aware would argue that it is possible to write “unbiased” history.
He then goes on to apply this to reporting the news, which is after all, a report of recent history. He makes the more specific application to Fox News which can get advertised as “bias free” or on the O’Reilly Factor we get the “no-spin zone.”
Unfortunately, this is not epistemologically possible. It may not really even be desirable. Trueman urges his readers to not make the mistake that any one news outlet is reporting “just the facts” and that every one else is offering a spin on the matter. Everyone who reports the news spins it one way or another. This isn’t a bad thing though, so long as you realize the type of spin you’re getting.
I may come back to add some more thoughts from this book, but I like I said, I would encourage you read it, knowing ahead of time that you probably will not agree with everything he says. I certainly didn’t, but I think he provides an interesting and helpful perspective to how our landscape has been shaped in recent years and where that places the thoughtful Christian in approaching politics.