The churlish “Let’s go Brandon” chants sweeping across the United States should have no place at BYU.
To the uninitiated, the cheering that was recently captured on video at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and shared on social media, might appear like little more than an expression of wholesome school spirit. But when two young men, dressed like Founding Fathers — in Cougar blue frocks no less — began a “Let’s go Brandon” chant at a recent football game, they weren’t rooting for anyone on the field.
No, the wig-clad fans were in fact jeering the president of the United States, Joe Biden.
And they’re not the only ones.
From elected officials in Congress, to sports fans in arenas across the country, conservatives have been using “Let’s go Brandon” as code for expressing their displeasure with the current administration.
The chant began after an NBC Sports reporter misheard a more vulgar rendition of the jeer during an interview with NASCAR driver Brandon Brown. The reporter believed fans at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway were chanting “Let’s go Brandon” in celebration of the 28-year-old’s first Xfinity Series victory. But, as the broadcast went on, it became clear the crowd was yelling a crasser message (not-fit-for-print) directed at the current occupant of the White House.
Certainly there’s a place for publicly airing political frustrations. And with angst mounting over, among others things, inflation, a prolonged pandemic, botched foreign policy and supply chain concerns, it’s little surprise that Biden’s approval rating has fallen precipitously in recent weeks. But, college-age BYU fans are still not justified in deploying coarse personal attacks — no matter how veiled. Nor is it appropriate to hijack a shared space designed for celebrating BYU and its athletes for one’s own political purposes.
Such demonstrations fall beneath the mark of good citizenship, let alone the more lofty aims of Christian discipleship which call on us to love our enemies.
In what will undoubtedly become a seminal discourse on the politics of peace, President Dallin H. Oaks, of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ, spoke last week at the University of Virginia and expressed his distress “at the way we are handling the national issues that divide us.”
While acknowledging that Americans have always worked through “serious political conflicts,” he noted with concern how many today approach politics “as if their preferred outcome must entirely prevail over all others, even in our pluralistic society.”
Citing Christian duties “to seek harmony” and “peace,” Oaks called for a better way forward by “reconciling adverse positions through respectful negotiation.”
Jesus Christ said “blessed” are the peacemakers, he noted. And, the ancient Apostle Paul admonished Christians to “follow after the things which make for peace.”
I’m not suggesting that BYU students or fans forgo stadium pageantry or the esprit de corps of college football. And no one should bury political grievances or remain silent on matters of policy.
To the contrary, I hope college students engage in the political fray. The republic needs young people of faith and good conscience from diverse backgrounds to voice their views in the public square.
But my hope is that those of us who claim to follow the prince of peace — at BYU and beyond — will strive a bit harder to live up to that tall billing. We should persuade our fellow citizens in more productive and elevated ways than mimicking the irrational exuberance of faddish jeers. America’s founding ideals of good citizenship demand nothing less.
And, the principles of true Christianity demand so much more.