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🚨 URGENT: Mere Orthodoxy Needs YOUR Help

Political Finger Guns Mode

March 6th, 2024 | 6 min read

By Jake Meador

In a recent interview about his time at LinkedIn, Mere O contributor Chris Krycho used a phrase to describe a certain engineering group at the company: "Finger-guns mode." Here's what he means by that:

It was completely what another colleague of mine once described as being in "finger guns mode," meaning like, "yeah, yeah, yeah, this is going to be awesome, man." It's kind of finger gunning at each other without answering any of the kinds of questions about, "what does it look to like to operate this when we’re trying to support hundreds and hundreds of engineers?"

"Finger guns mode," then is a kind of naive bravado that mistakes big ideas for effectiveness while blithely ignoring complicating factors, reasonable questions, implementation, process, and so on.

Obviously the political left in America is rife with finger gun mode as political style. "Abolish the police" plainly fits that description, as, in retrospect, did much of Black Lives Matter's activism, as both Matthew Loftus and Freddie de Boer have described many times. De Boer gets at the problem, from the left, quite neatly in this recent piece:

We live in a world where fighting racism has gone from fighting for an economy where all Black families can put food on the table to white people acknowledging the land rights of dead Native Americans before they give conference panels about how to maximize synergy in corporate workflow. In a world of affinity groups, diversity pledges, and an obsession with language that tests the boundaries of the possible, we have to ask ourselves hard questions about what any of it actually accomplishes. Who is all of this shit for?

But the finger gun mood is a problem that cuts across the political spectrum. Here are two examples of the finger gun mode as applied to the Christian right's political advocacy.

First, several years ago we raised the concern that the particular way the pro-life movement was emphasizing judges and defeating Roe could have negative long-term effects on the movement. At the time, the piece was widely ridiculed and dismissed by many to our right. Indeed, after the Dobbs decision I had to do a bit of reflection and consider whether or not I'd been wrong all along about that issue.

Then the state-level votes started coming in. And abortion rights were enshrined in the state constitutions of many red states and often by quite a wide margin. Indeed, we are now at the stage where The Free Press is suggesting that the GOP's position on abortion is their version of "abolish the police" for the Democrats. As their report suggests, the recent Alabama IVF ruling is likely to further accelerate these dynamics.

“Being pro-life, I’m like, ‘Great, they’re just viewing those as our babies,’ because you do kind of feel that way when you’re going through IVF, that this is my baby, even though it’s not in my womb yet,” she told me. 

But, later that night, when she read more about the ruling, she learned that her eight embryos, which are still in a freezer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, would no longer be treated as her property. Instead, the state now considered them living children. And disposing of them could, in theory, lead to criminal charges. 

“I think it’s ridiculous that anyone would say that an embryo is a child, even though I love my little ‘embabies,’ ” she tells me. “But I just don’t see how anyone could say it’s the same as my son that’s sitting in my house right now.”

Her original plan was to donate her remaining embryos to science, but now, she worries that doing so could be considered a form of manslaughter. At the same time, she’s beginning to wonder if the pro-life movement that she’s supported her whole life has gone too far. 

“You’re restricting people that really want a family, putting even more restrictions on them and making it harder,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that’s a pro-life decision.” 

Our position on issues such as IVF and surrogacy, to say nothing of abortion and gay marriage, is well-established at this point. So the point I'm making here is not to say that it is wrong to pursue strict restrictions or even bans on abortion or to seek reform around so-called "reproductive healthcare" as it relates to IVF and surrogacy. My point is that the GOP rushed headlong into a plan that absolutely exudes finger gun energy and now all those complications, hard questions, and implementation issues are arising and there isn't really any plan here aside from doubling down, so far as I can tell.

Similarly, some Christian Nationalists have celebrated the ascent of Oklahoma state senator Dusty Deevers, an SBC pastor in Oklahoma who partnered with Jeffrey Wright, William Wolfe, and several others to draft a statement on Christian nationalism. (A statement that seems to run afoul of traditional Baptist political theology at several points, but we'll leave that to the side for the moment.) Deevers arrived in Oklahoma City and promptly began finger gunning his way through his agenda, proposing abortion bans, porn bans, sexting bans, and so on. The CNs cheered, the progressive media scorned him, and in the meantime... basically nothing real ever happened.


Because Deevers seems to have already alienated his Republican colleagues and can't even get his bills out of committee to be heard from the floor:

Again, the problem here is not the policies per se, although I think the sexting ban is an implementation nightmare and would probably get ruled unconstitutional because of the surveillance apparatus the state would have to openly develop in order to actually enforce it. But a ban on porn? Sure, we just called for such a ban two months ago.

But how does any of this actually happen? How do we move these goals away from the vibey, lib owning world of Twitter beefs and see them become real in the world of policy and politics? It would seem quite clear at this point that Deevers has no idea. He's here to chew bubble gum and own the libs and he's all out of bubble gum. What he's obviously not here to do is actually do the work of a statesman and legislate.

Much of this is a predictable dynamic of living in a world where networks are supplanting institutions in terms of the sorts of communities that shape people and where people spend much of their time. Yet the problem here is that one can't really make "politics" behave like an online network. One can try, of course, and cable news will happily be along for the ride, as will much of the media—a Jerry Springer-style political carnival is good for subscription revenue and traffic-based revenue as well. Yet at the end of the day our legislatures will inevitably be far more mixed and diverse than our networks and it is only our legislatures that can draft bills, debate them, and make them laws. But if everyone in the legislature is formed in network dynamics that incentivize extremism and undermine bridge building skills, then the legislatures will never be able to do their jobs.

We need policies, we need laws, we need forms of governing our common life together under the rule of law. And we're never going to develop those as long as the finger gun mode is the dominant way that both the young left and young right engage with politics.


Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).