The cheeky “Let’s go Brandon” chants sweeping across the United States should have no place at BYU.
To the uninitiated, the cheers recently captured on video at LaVell Edwards Stadium and shared on social media may seem like little more than an expression of healthy school spirit. But when two young men dressed as Founding Fathers — no less in Cougar-blue dresses — started a “Let’s go Brandon” chant at a recent football game, they weren’t looking for anyone on the field.
No, the wig-clad fans were in fact laugh at United States President Joe Biden.
And they are not the only ones.
From elected officials in Congress to sports fans in arenas across the country, conservatives are using “Let’s go Brandon” as their code to express their dismay at the current administration.
The chant started after an NBC Sports reporter misheard a more vulgar rendition of the spot during an interview with NASCAR driver Brandon Brown. The reporter believed fans at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway chanted “Let’s go Brandon” in honor of the 28-year-old’s first Xfinity Series win. But as the broadcast progressed, it became apparent that the crowd was shouting a coarser message (unsuitable for press) addressed to the current White House resident.
There is certainly a place for publicly expressing political frustrations. And with growing fears over things like inflation, a protracted pandemic, foreign policy failures and supply chain concerns, it’s no surprise that Biden’s approval rating has fallen abruptly in recent weeks. But college-age BYU fans are still ineligible to use gross personal attacks — however veiled. It is also not appropriate to hijack a shared space designed to celebrate BYU and its athletes for their own political ends.
Such demonstrations fall under the sign of good citizenship, let alone the more lofty goals of Christian discipleship that call on us to love our enemies.
In what will no doubt be a groundbreaking discourse on the politics of peace, President Dallin H. Oaks, of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ, spoke at the University of Virginia last week expressing his displeasure “with the way we deal with the national issues that divide us.”
While acknowledging that Americans have always endured “serious political conflict,” he noted with concern how many today approach politics “as if their desired outcome should completely prevail over all others, even in our pluralistic society.”
Referring to Christian duties “to seek harmony” and “peace,” Oaks called for a better way forward by “reconciling adverse points of view through respectful negotiations.”
Jesus Christ said “blessed” are the peacemakers, he noted. And the ancient apostle Paul admonished Christians to “pursue those things that make for peace.”
I’m not suggesting that BYU students or fans forgo stadium splendor or the esprit de corps of college football. And no one should bury political grievances or remain silent on policy issues.
On the contrary, I hope that students will get involved in the political struggle. The republic needs faithful and conscientious young people from different backgrounds to express their views in the public square.
But I hope those of us who claim to follow the Prince of Peace — at BYU and beyond — will strive a little harder to meet that hefty bill. We must convince our fellow citizens in more productive and lofty ways than imitating the irrational exuberance of fashionable mockery. America’s basic ideals of good citizenship demand nothing less.
And the principles of true Christianity require so much more.