Some of the most popular news and video content on social media are those short clips that circulate where one political pundit and commentator “owns” someone else in a debate.
“Own” enough people frequently enough on some hot culture war topics, and you’ll become a rockstar who makes a career for yourself as you dish out “hot takes” that “burns” your political enemies.
This is literally how individuals like Rush Limbaugh, Ben Shapiro, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and others have made careers for themselves. They did it by frequently “owning the libs,” and receiving a lot of applause for doing so. And such is a tactic and formula that many Rush Limbaugh wannabes have tried duplicating time and time again as they have sought to grow their own following.
And, with this sorta culture existing among right wing conservatives, it made it very easy for Donald Trump to find fertile ground to dish out his brand of politics, which sought to capitalize on this perpetual political angst among conservatives, who were always more than willing to make a rock star out of those who are willing to be reckless and unkind with their words.
Whatever your politics are about Donald Trump, his popularity is undoubtedly the result of his willingness to engage in behavior that slams, humiliates, and attempts destroy his enemies by saying whatever over the top thing he deems necessary in the moment to emerge victorious over his opponents.
It’s a mindset and behavior that many conservatives have long embraced and baptized as not only something that is tolerable, but something that is to be celebrated. For in doing so, people who feel that the political left and the powers of the government are out to get them, it makes individuals like Trump into a sort champion to those on the right. Trump’s tirades make people feel that he sticks up for them in the political arena, and isn’t afraid to hit back at the bullies they believe are out to get them.
Therefore, anyone that comes along who is willing to “own the libs,” is someone that causes many on the conservative political right to salivate. Engage in this type of behavior, and you’ll always have a platform in their circles. This has been the case long before Trump, and will remain the case long after Trump. It’s something that is deeply embedded in the DNA of the politically conservative right.
But as a Christian, this bothers me. Especially since I am a quasi conservative politically right leaning guy, and I see many of my fellow Christians who also have such political leanings being swept up into this mindset.
But can I say something today? And it might be sorta controversial for me to say, but I’m going to say it anyway:
“Owning the libs” isn’t a Christian virtue, or fruit of the spirit.
Rather… kindness is a fruit of the spirit. And kindness is a fruit that I believe people are starving for more of these days.
Kindness begins with the recognition that everyone, including your enemies, are created in the image and likeness of God. And as such, they deserve to be treated respectfully and with a sense of reverence, for they are ultimately the reflection of something holy. As a result, you should aim to treat someone else as if they were God. And the last I checked, trying to “own” God isn’t exactly the most prudent of behaviors.
Kindness is a behavior we engage in out of a sense of empathy. Jesus said we should treat others like we treat ourselves. It’s the so-called “Golden Rule.”
So with that in mind, let me ask you, how would you like to be treated?
Would you like to be reviled, mocked, humiliated, and be otherwise “owned?” I don’t think any sane person wants to be treated in such a way. So then, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, why would you want to “own” someone else, or support and be regularly entertained by those who engage in such behavior?
It’s really a very simple idea, treat people with kindness because you want to be treated with kindness in return, and don’t give a platform to and empower people to be unkind on your behalf.
As a result of these things, handling people with a rough and tough sorta mentality is out of the question. We should have no desire to “own the libs,” or applaud and cheer on those that do.
Kindness is a completely opposite mentality. Kindness is a mentality in which we have a tender hearted mindset towards others, that leads us to treating them in the same way God treats us.
As the apostle Paul stated, it’s “the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.” Treating people with kindness— not harshness, not rudeness, not smacking us around, or treating us as we deserve to be treated— those are the things that ultimately change us in our posture towards God. And if being kind towards us is how God changes our hearts and minds, then it is the same kindness we should show towards others if we ever hope to change their hearts and minds.
The desire to “own the libs” is nothing more than wanting to get one over on someone else; to put them in their place; to stand over them as a champion of righteousness. Such a thing might make for some feel good activity about yourself, and might make for some entertaining news clips and increase your social media following, but it’s not an attitude than anyone professing to follow Christ should even remotely entertain.
“Owning the libs” is contrary to how God treats us, and how we should treat one another. We are called to treat others kindly, no matter how they might be treating us. That doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth, and to sometimes do such in bold ways. But in an age where harshness and uncivil attitudes prevail, kindness is the type of boldness we need more of in this world.
Any fool and coward can “tell it like it is,” and they frequently do. But it takes a wise person to control their tongue, and to speak to others with the type of kindness and tenderness necessary to change hearts and minds. And last I checked, nobody ever had their mind changed as a result of being owned and being read the riot act.
Anyone can be nice to those who are nice to them, or nice to those with whom they have a vested self-interest. But what about being kind to those who are hostile towards you, and maybe even someone you count as your enemy?
Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that even godless pagans are nice to those who are nice to them, and to those whom they have deep personal ties. So there are no brownie points in heaven for you loving on those who love you back.
On the other hand, someone who not only isn’t nice to you, but someone that actively plots against you, who doesn’t have your best intentions in mind, and would be counted as your enemy. Treating those persons with love, respect, tenderheartedness and kindness? That’s something entirely otherworldly.
Treating those who are hostile to you with kindness is something that belongs to those who are sons and daughters of God. It’s an attitude of those who are truly righteous, and not those who pretend to be righteous by owning the libs.