Thursday’s presidential debate is expected to draw tens of millions of viewers, a high-stakes event that will invite intense analysis as well as potentially alter the trajectory of the race.

While CNN will be hosting the matchup in Atlanta, other media outlets are already promoting their coverage from the “spin room.This is where representatives from both campaigns will be offering their pre- and post-debate perspectives in the hope of shaping the stories coming out of the evening’s expected clash.

The desire to spin a story goes back to the very beginning of time in the Garden of Eden. You might say the serpent was spinning the parameters concerning the tree, suggesting the prohibition God placed on eating its fruit weren’t to be taken literally or seriously. The evil one also suggested the limitations were selfishly motivated.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4).

Eve fell for it, ate the fruit, and then shared it with Adam. Caught red-handed, Adam tried to spin by blaming Eve. Eve then tried to spin the sin by blaming the serpent.

Scripture is full of counsel on how to detect and discern sin, spin and outright lies. James advises that anyone who “lacks wisdom, let him ask God” (1:5). The apostle Paul warns about being deceived by “empty words” (Eph. 5:6) and “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Scoffers and cynics like to suggest the best way to determine if politicians are lying is to see if their lips are moving. That unhelpful sarcasm not only belies reality but undermines and undervalues God’s endorsement of government itself. All politicians are imperfect and fallen people, and we must work responsibly, thoughtfully, and deliberately within the system we’ve been given.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities,” wrote the apostle Paul. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Peter shared a similar sentiment when he urged, “Be subject for the Lords sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors as sent by Him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14).

But the Christian, especially, should work hard at developing critical thinking skills and cultivating discerning ears, eyes and heart. As we watch, here are some general principles to employ as you consider what is being shared.

Truth does not contradict God’s Word. There are plenty of arguably neutral issues in politics, from trade treaties to ambassador appointees, but then there are some where the Bible is unequivocal.

Christians cannot support policies that champion the destruction of innocent life, the redefinition of male and female, the expansion of mythical genders, or call for the destruction of one-man, one-woman marriage and the nuclear family.

Facts are stubborn things. I remember one of my high school social studies teachers (that’s what we called the class in the ‘80s) saying repeatedly, “Figures lie, and liars figure.”

It’s a clever quip and has some merit based on lived experience, but the discerning Christian can and should still consider a politician’s record and results. It would be foolish to ignore facts and only embrace feelings.

Competency, courage, capacity and character matter. Many other important qualities make up great leaders, but these four “c’s” should be especially considered. President Teddy Roosevelt delivered his famous “Man in the Arena” speech from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910. Given where we find ourselves as a nation, consider the applicability and timelessness of his words:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

May the Lord give us all wisdom and discernment as we watch – and peace as we pray.


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