Joel Belz: A helpful grid for evaluating politicians


KENT COVINGTON, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 16th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Kent Covington.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Americans are bracing for midterm elections. WORLD Founder Joel Belz suggests a way to evaluate political candidates and even nations.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: The dawn of yet another political season can no longer be denied. Nancy Pelosi’s boasting that she’s already decided on the people she expects to appoint as the new leaders of Congress. So you know we’re back in the political thicket again.

As you restart the process of sizing up, evaluating, and then backing candidates for office, let me suggest an admittedly over-simplistic grid. Keep in mind that virtually everyone running for office fits somewhere on this five-point spectrum:

Number one, folks who are mostly wrong about issues—and not very nice about it.

Number two, folks who are mostly wrong about issues—but they’re nice about it.

Right in the middle, number three, folks who are ambivalent toward right and wrong.

Number four, mostly right about issues—and nice about it.

And number five, folks who are mostly right about issues—but not very nice about it.

You might actually find yourself shuffling the candidates around on the grid as the campaign progresses.

In my experience, those candidates scoring somewhere between 4 and 5 deserve special attention and support.

But now take a few minutes and apply that same grid to the countries of the world.

There’s order rooted in error, and intolerant of anything but that error. Think of evil totalitarianism. Try Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.

But, number two, there’s also order rooted in error—yet tolerant of other points of view. Modern Japan may be a good example, with a government whose leaders are committed Shintoists, but there’s also significant freedom.

In the middle, there’s order rooted in so-called pluralism. Whether such a structure—providing equal allowance for every point-of-view—is durable through the centuries remains to be seen.

Now, how about order rooted in truth—but tolerating significant error? The great American experiment, from its earliest days, generally fits this description. The commitment to truth hasn’t always been faithful, and the toleration of error not always clear or consistent. But the approach is usually sincere.

Examples of nations ordered in truth while intolerant of error probably exist more in people’s minds than in actual history. We all know individuals like this. But nations? Not really.

That’s a key distinction, too. An individual in error might simply be a nuisance… but nations drastically affect how we live our lives. Think of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor sitting right now in a Turkish jail, whose very life is in the hands of a nation committed to gross error.

Civil order and personal freedom don’t happen in vacuums. Take a map of the world and the grid I’ve just described—and categorize all the nations you see. Then grab a history book and do the same with all the nations and civilizations that no longer exist.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


(Illustration/Krieg Barrie)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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