No, Let’s Not Go Brandon.
A Southwest Airlines pilot initiated a social media firestorm when he included the now ubiquitous phrase, “Let’s go Brandon,” in his comments from the cockpit. For those not in the know, “Let’s go Brandon” is a euphemistic way of expressing extremely low regard for Joe Biden, the president of the United States. A further explanation would offend many.
Now, it is first of all to be admitted that such a comment is unusual in the genre of pilot commentary. We are accustomed to airline pilots drawling in that West Virginia Chuck Yeager voice (described memorably by Thomas Wolfe in The Right Stuff) that reassures us the flight is safe even when turbulence interferes or when we are circling an airport for the fourth time and fuel is low. To interject a partisan political comment is to interfere with the sense of objective technological expertise we like to imagine dispassionately guiding massive jets through the sky.
But the bigger point has to do with, “Let’s go Brandon” as a statement that has gained currency with conservatives and surely with Christian conservatives. Many of us feel the country is going in the wrong direction culturally, spiritually, and economically and that Joe Biden is not so much leading as he is gliding along with the zeitgeist. “Let’s go Brandon” is an expression of frustration.
Frustration has its place, but the thing we should be thinking about and refusing to embrace is disrespect. God has allowed Joe Biden to become the president (just as he did Donald Trump). It seems clear from Romans 13 that God gives us the state for legitimate reasons and that those who have authority “have been instituted by God.” They deserve respect. We should seek their approval by doing what is good. Subjection to this authority is a matter of conscience. Happily, we live in a system of laws and in a democracy that allows us to participate in the making of law, but there is nothing about those benefits that would license us to obnoxiously revile our leaders. “Let’s go Brandon,” is not a respectful statement. It is a mocking one.
How should Christians approach the state? We should “render unto Caesar,” which is to say that we should pay our taxes and obey the laws. The authority of the state (and certainly of a president) is not plenary. We also must “render unto God.” But even when we must disagree and even disobey, we should do so as ambassadors of Christ as our king. I was often disgusted to see many on the left reviling Donald Trump and joyfully castigating him in the harshest, most aggressive terms. Yet, here we are with many on the right (including some Christians) euphemistically doing the same thing and finding great sport in it.
So, first, we have a biblical duty to respect and obey our political leaders within certain broad boundaries. But second, we should think about what we hope to achieve. What goals are more likely to be accomplished through mockery and contempt than through civility and thoughtfulness?
Politics and war are sometimes seen as activities that exist on a kind of continuum. It has been said that wars should be fought in such a way as to avoid the cultivation of enduring hatreds. Rather, they should be fought so as to restore peace and brotherhood. If politics is similar in some way (which it clearly is), then we should carry out our debates and campaigns with an eye toward reuniting after the election is over and working together.
This is part of why we have often in the past used the language of “the loyal opposition.” A government has opponents, but they are loyal and ultimately want what is good for everyone. It has been a long time since I heard the phrase “the loyal opposition” in the United States. Instead, we tend to have “the resistance” whether it be left or right.
Christians should be some of the greatest contributors to peace and harmony within the nations in which they live. They cannot consent to impiety or license sin, but they can give love and respect even when they are in opposition. “Let’s go Brandon” is not a phrase Christians should repeat or encourage others to use.