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The Rev. Christopher Henry

Chris Henry: The Problem with Piety

Luke 18:9-14

23rd Sunday after Pentecost - Year C

October 23, 2016

The Rev. Christopher Henry (PCUSA)

 

In the fall of 2000, I began my studies at Duke University as an intended political science major with my sights set on a future in elected office. I only lasted one semester with this intended concentration and vocation. One of the primary reasons was the first course I took in the political science department. The course was titled, "Political Systems in Contemporary America" and it had a deeply negative impact on me. It was not the brilliant professor, nor the challenging reading list, nor the fascinating subject matter. It was one particular lecture on the growing use and impact of negative campaign advertising that did me in. We often complain about such pieces from both ends of the political spectrum, describing them as "attack ads" and "mudslinging." They disappoint us and erode our trust in the political system. And, perhaps most disturbingly, they are successful. These attack ads get results. I remember our professor explaining that the reason for the increasing prevalence of such campaign ads was their consistent record of effectiveness. "It turns out," he said with a smile, "that in politics you really can lift yourself up by tearing others down. I have the research to prove it."

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