Writing about politics in the age of rancor

Sara Pulliam Bailey, Karen Swallow Prior, C. Christopher Smith and James K.A. Smith discuss ways to converse with civility.

THIS PANEL FEATURED Journalist Sarah Pulliam Bailey; professor and author Karen Swallow Prior; editor C. Christopher Smith; and professor and author James K.A. Smith, speaking on his home turf of Calvin College. The general “rancor” that the title referred to became clear almost immediately, as every speaker addressed the current political situation in the U.S., with Donald Trump occupying the presidency thanks in no small part to the continued support of white evangelicals. Everyone agreed this was a problem, though for different reasons. The major fault line was the perceived of lack of conversation, with citizens on both sides of the political divide having significant difficulty speaking to one another. Churches are no different in this regard, according to the panel. Smith made the point that such conversations often seek to persuade others, and that people who seek to accomplish such persuasion should remember that it’s more of an art than a science. Simply scoring logic points rarely has the intended effect of changing someone’s mind. Unfortunately, the panel didn’t have the time to get any more specific about what issues they had in mind in terms of persuasion.


  • Adam’s work has appeared in many venues, including the Paris Review Daily, Electric Literature and Real Life. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and two daughters.

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