First Principles: A Conversation with John Kingston

A while back, I had John Kingston on the podcast to talk about his book American Awakening. What I didn’t know was that the day we were talking, he was getting ready to launch a new collective called Christians Against Trumpism and Political Extremism. I must’ve made an impression, because a month later, I’m on the leadership committee and we’re working toward the long-term goal of reviving civil discourse.

I wanted to check in on John and hear about everything he’s been doing—the people he’s talking to, the projects he’s filming, and so on—and John was king enough to come back on the program and fill me in on the latest, including the First Principles Project. Listen to us talk about that, about Christians Against Trumpism, the problem of single-issue voting, his legal thoughts on Roe v. Wade, and more.

The Conversation | John Kingston

Josh Olds: I want to pick up that thread of talking about so many conservative evangelical white Christians being single issue voters. They’re vehemently pro-life. And you are as well, and I am as well, but we probably disagree on what should be done in order to get there. I know so many people who—especially after the first presidential debate last week—came away from that debate and went, “Yikes. But I’m gonna vote for him because he’s pro-life.? Like I get it, I really, really do. This is such an important issue. And unfortunately, Democrats don’t have a good history on this issue and currently don’t have great policies on this issue.

It’s so hard to get people out of that single-issue idea. Every single person who told me they were going to vote Trump, it came down to the issue of abortion. And again, I get it. But that’s only one facet of being pro-life, in my opinion. How do we get people to look beyond just being a single issue voter?

John Kingston: Yeah. Well, that is the nature of it all. The objective of Christians Against Trumpism is to call out where that is an inconsistent approach. David French had a beautiful piece in Time magazine yesterday, you know, saying that the idea of trumping a pro-life president is a farce, noting his deeply cavalier response to the loss of 200,000 American lives in the US in the COVID crisis and the way he handled it with his own staff…

[If you have] the most robust Christian understanding of this, then you would show the respect and dignity of all those around you, including those people work for you when you know that they’re imperiled by your own actions. It’s for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear: they will eventually see that the idea of Trump being pro-life president was a bit of a farce,

And yes, there are conservative judges, no doubt about that. Remember, I’m a lawyer and all that. I went to law school with some of these people that end up on these on these benches. And it matters, it really does matter. I’m not going to belittle the significance of having that. But I’m just going to tell you that, as wrongly decided as Roe versus Wade was…it’s not gonna be overturned. That’s just not where the judiciary is. And these folks that go to the Supreme Court are not just pro-life voting bots.

So invariably, people that want this to be the outcome are going to be disappointed, and they will sacrifice and compromise, all of our values and virtues of being a Christian…in order to get a bowl of porridge: a conservative judge who will vote your way—except they won’t actually vote your way, and you won’t get it.

The vast majority of current abortions still happen, even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t be fighting for the good…Don’t get me wrong, this is not like, “Oh, it’s silly, don’t worry about it.” It’s just to be realistic about what at what’s actually going on and not throw away all the rest of your values for something which actually won’t change the arc of what you’re hoping to achieve.

Josh Olds: I feel like we’ve become a society where we want to legislate other people. When I say “we as society,” I mean, as white evangelical Christians, we have a tendency to want to enforce other people to not do things, but we don’t want our religion to tell us to do things. We like religion and when it tells other people what not to do, but not when it tells us what to do…We would much rather feel like the issue is solved by stopping something rather than starting something.

John Kingston: Josh, you have stumbled into the spirit of the First Principles Project. It is a first principle to love your neighbor. It is a second principle to have your neighbor act somehow differently. And you’re right, you’re exactly right. And it’s really challenging…We get the cart before the horse, the baby is thrown out with the bathwater, the chicken—whatever the happy cliché is—but we’re just often wrong in our thinking on it, because we ought to be thinking about what’s my responsibility in this moment, to my neighbor, and we so infrequently do.

The Project | First Principles Project

We need to do better. We can do better.

The Project provides in one convenient location the thinking of the best Christian minds of this generation on this subject, in both video and transcript form.

Our team of pastors and thought leaders has synthesized the contributions of the best evangelical minds of this generation and across time, to bring you guidance on how to ground Christian public square engagement for this election season and beyond.

Our premise is simple. Even when we disagree on matters of policy and party, we should be united on the essential principles that shape our engagement in the public square. We should model the love of Jesus in all we do, no matter which politicians we support.

We have developed materials to help us:

First, as citizens in the Kingdom of God — with Jesus as our King and God’s way as our charter.

Second, participating as citizens of our country, engaging in our civic duties in a spirit of service.

Third, serving our communities, loving our neighbors as Jesus commanded.

The Person | John Kingston

John Kingston is a lawyer by training and Fortune 500 senior executive by experience, who has been inspired by his faith to invest his fortune in awakening America to values that made her a nation unrivaled in human history. Kingston gained national attention in the 2016 and 2018 political cycles with innovative and inclusive campaigns positioned against the extremes of American politics, and has been active in national arts, culture, and political movements for two decades.