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OPINION

Tucker Carlson, The Truth, and The Spiritual Battle

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AMAC

Right before his top-rated show’s cancellation from Fox News a couple weeks ago, Tucker Carlson gave a fascinating speech at the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary gala held in Oxon Hill, Maryland. At least one article (in Vanity Fair)in the wake of his ouster claimed that Carlson’s speech, the transcript of which was titled “‘Include Country In Your Prayers,’ Carlson Tells Heritage Foundation Gala” by The Daily Signal, might be the real reason for cancellation. The speech was, reported Gabe Sherman of Vanity Fair, “laced” with “religious overtones that even Murdoch found too extreme.”

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What Carlson said that purportedly bugged Murdoch was that for engaging many on the left in America, there is no possible debating about facts or political policies. What is called for is something stronger.

Tucker asked Americans to pray.

As Sherman’s source, said: “That stuff freaks Rupert out. He doesn’t like all the spiritual talk.”

It’s not clear this account is correct. Sherman only reported it as “a new theory.” And what does it signify that a source “was briefed on Murdoch’s decision-making”? Briefed by whom? And how does that person know?  (Too much journalism reminds us today of the girl in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off who explains to the teacher played by Ben Stein, “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night.”)

Whether it’s true or not, however, it rubs a raw nerve these days. For a long time, it was a truism that while liberals thought conservatives were evil, conservatives simply thought liberals were misguided. We are all aiming at the same things! We just differ on the means! All of us everywhere are on the same team, no matter where we are or what party we belong to.

What Carlson said, however, contradicted this directly. Made up of his usual running grab bag of funny stories, self-deprecating jokes, sincere tributes to others, and what can only be called a personal wrestling with what he thinks to be the truth about what’s going wrong in America without fear or favor of Democrats, Republicans, or any of the DNC-regime “media reporters,” Carlson’s speech ended with a stirring meditation on why it is that the two things we need these days are courageous truth-tellers and people who beg God’s help for our country.  

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“So, when I started at Heritage,” he said, “the presumption was, and this is a very Anglo-American assumption, that the debates we’re having are rational debates about the way to get to mutually agreed-upon outcomes…And so, we write our papers, and they write their papers, and may the best papers win.”

Today, however, things are different. He talked about how our public life that is now filled with constant lies and the pressure to repeat them over and over again: “If there’s a single person in this room who hasn’t seen that through George Floyd and COVID and the Ukraine War, raise your hand. Oh, nobody? Right. You all know what I’m talking about.”

While Americans might see the hollowness of many of these too-long-but-temporary bundles of falsehood, our culture now has what are purported to be timeless dogmas about gender, diversity, equity, and inclusion—many of which don’t even make any logical sense—to which we must bow our heads and add our amens. While we certainly have need of people to rationally explain the false premises and faulty logic that permeate this false dogmatic core, we all can take part in resisting the evil falsehoods about what it means to be human.

Reminiscent of Solzhenitsyn’s 1974 essay “Live Not By Lies,” Carlson encouraged people to try and tell the truth. “Try it. Tell the truth about something. You feel it every day. The more you tell the truth, the stronger you become. That’s completely real. It’s measurable in the way that you feel.”

He lauded ordinary people, executives, and others in big organizations who refuse to engage in the dangerous and destructive lies that are damaging our economy and the soul of our nation. “No one is trained to stand up in the middle of a [diversity, equity, and inclusion] meeting at Citibank and say, ‘This is nonsense.’ And the people who do that, oh, they have my deepest admiration.”

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But it is because so many of the positions that are not lies are actually something else that Carlson recommended that what we need is not more policy papers but prayer. About transgenderism, he said: “If you have people who are saying, ‘I have an idea. Let’s castrate the next generation. Let’s sexually mutilate children.’ I’m sorry, that’s not a political debate. What? That’s nothing to do with politics. What’s the outcome we’re desiring here? An androgynous population? Are we arguing for that? I don’t think anyone could defend that as a positive outcome, but the weight of the government and a lot of corporate interests are behind that.”

Like abortion, such a position seems to be some sort of strange theological position. Carlson alluded to Janet Yellen’s 2022 testimony before the Senate Banking Committee in the wake of the leaked Roe v. Wade draft opinion in which she argued that eliminating legal abortion was bad on economic grounds since it “would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.” Carlson described her testimony thus: “But when the Treasury secretary stands up and says, ‘You know what you can do to help the economy? Get an abortion.’ Well, that’s like an Aztec principle, actually.”

Given that Yellen’s argument is that our economy advanced because women could kill the children in their wombs, perhaps Carlson was slightly misleading. But only slightly. Perhaps a policy paper could show that the economy didn’t quite advance as much as she said it would. But her argument as stated is that a woman’s temporary advancement economically is worth destroying unborn human life. This is indeed a moral and theological judgment that comes out of a deep spiritual sickness.

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It is not clear that any policy paper or argument marshaling facts will work simply on its own. Carlson lamented, “I’ve tried. That doesn’t work.” That’s why, in addition to his lauding of those bearing heroic witness, he added what supposedly shook Rupert Murdoch to his core: “…maybe we should all take just 10 minutes a day to say a prayer about it. I’m serious. Why not?”

 I don’t think we have to want to set up Calvin’s Geneva or a Catholic confessional state or some sort of explicit Christian nationalist polity to agree with Carlson, an Episcopalian, on this. Our country needs politics rather than an unelected administrative state; she needs intellectual argument rather than screaming.

But if she is to get them back, America needs to recover the notion of truth under God. And the way to get that truth is to speak and listen to God. The problem, as Solzhenitsyn put it in his 1983 Templeton speech, is that “men have forgotten God.” In order to have debates about the goods toward which we as a country should work, all involved must believe that there are in fact objective goods and an objective truth.

Americans are looking forward to Tucker Carlson’s return to commenting on what’s happening in our country. No theologian or great literary artist, he often plays the ordinary man, the investigator, the jester, even the fool. But in his Heritage speech he proved he can play the prophet, too.

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David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative.

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