Kristi Noem Bends the Knee

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has been hailed by many for her light, Sweden-like approach to Covid restrictions. Now, she bends the knee to corporate interests on an issue that should be far more clear: keeping men’s and women’s sports separate.


Is the Wilson camp going to pull their conference from S Dakota now?

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Probably too late. It’s too bad the governor did this.

I took a quick look at Wilson’s public Twitter feed (what’s available for those without Twitter accounts). No mention of Noem yet. It’s been about 24 hours.

Matt Williams has said some words on his FLF network podcast. I just glanced at the feed.

Will they relocate? No. The message they send by doing that is: masks are important than men in girls’ locker rooms.

Masks have become part of the culture war because everything can be turned into a culture war. The media have lit whatever remaining credibility they had on fire the last 4 years. You lose nothing by spinning your own narrative, promoting your own platform, and feeding your own alternate reality. You have much to gain by doing so.

This is the lesson of the Trump phenomenon. Trump was good at promoting himself, not actually governing. But who cares? The social media posturing is all that matters. He’s not the only politician who plays this game. Noem is doing it too. Trump was very good at it. Obama was the same: light on actual accomplishments but good at appearing serious and accomplished. Appearances are everything.

Politics is also tit for tat. The left says everything the right wants to do is “fascism.” So we respond in kind to Covid rules, calling them fascism. Tit for tat. Who cares about what actually should be done? Who cares about doing the right thing? The rewards go to the preeners and the posers.

Like people, like priest. All of us do it too on social media. Appearances are everything. Our leaders reflect we the people.

When Noem thought she could get a cost free political win by grandstanding against Covid restrictions, she did so. When she actually had to make a costly decision to oppose the NCAA, she stood down. It’s all unbearably light. We have no civil fathers, only micromanaging civil mothers and a bunch of absent fathers who just tell us what we want to hear. No leadership.


I hope they do relocate. You are right about seemingly no leaders, it’s sad that no other governor both 1) Didn’t lock down their state and 2) Stands against trannies in the opposite sport.

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I just got an email today from FLF about “packing my bags” for SD, so they’re not changing states. Practically, it’s just too late (36 days away), even if they wanted to. I suppose they could just cancel but that’s a tough call too. I hope that they have their event in SD and speak to Noem’s failure and use it to show that even the best politicians (by their own standard) have real problems. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.


The game they are playing does not take precision. They’ve hitched their wagon to anti-masking, and they’ll use Noem’s reputation to bolster their case and feed their base. She’s their Deborah; so what if she’s caved on this or that.

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Here’s another perspective from a lawyer.

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I’ve seen comparisons of this situation to Pence’s actions in Indianapolis a number of years ago. Let’s assume, for a moment that this perspective is true. Let’s assume that this is a moment of cowardice on her part. Let’s assume this is just ‘politics as tit for tat.’ Let’s assume she’s just ‘bending the knee.’

I still want to be wary of the cynic’s perspective. The main reason for my caution is because I’ve done the same thing. Not in the same situation, not with the same audience, not with the same measure of power. But I’ve bowed the knee. I remember the incredibly uncomfortable video of Tim Keller responding to a question about homosexuality (which, to his credit, he some time later responded with a much better statement). I called it cowardice (and it was). I blasted it as a lack of spine (which it was). I accused him of failing to bear the shame of Christ when it really mattered (which he did). Then a few years later on a train with some colleagues at an academic conference I was asked what sort of denomination I was from. And I choked.

I was the only evangelical (as far as I could tell) at this conference. Some of the participants were openly hostile to evangelicals (despite it being a theological conference). I was there for academic purposes not for theological purposes, to say I’d attended the conference and to get the credit hours and be done. I wasn’t ready. It was the last question I expected to be asked. It wasn’t that the question was that hard, it was that I was embarrassed at being outed. That by answering the question of what sort of church I was a pastor in (I hadn’t hidden that point) I was exposed as a true believer. I gave some sort of vague and mealymouthed explanation of what sort of ecclesiastical groupings I was with and how we were similar to some groups and less so to others, keeping it all uncomfortably unclear, and my discomfort palpably obvious to the one who asked, for all I could tell, a well-intentioned question.

My point is not that Noem is right if she’s bent the knee, any more than Pence was right. But I think we sometimes forget the pressure of certain moments, pressure that most of us probably don’t have to face on a regular basis. That’s not to defend their actions; it is to question our spirit in how we criticise them. And to remind that Peter’s betrayal came only hours after a remarkable demonstration of courage and faithfulness.

A couple years ago I heard Tim Farron give a talk at a church in London. He was for a time the leader of the LibDems (the next major political power, at the time, after Labour and the Tories) and is an open Christian at an evangelical church. He was asked about homosexuality in a BBC interview and choked. Obviously. Significantly. And he knew it. You could tell watching the interview. It was a grossly unfair interview, the sort of interview that would never be had with an imam. But still, he choked.

And a few days later he publicly apologised, clarified his own beliefs, and resigned his position as leader of the party. When I heard him speak (several years after this incident) there were tears in his eyes as he recounted the situation, tears that came from bringing shame on Christ’s name in that interview. His response that night made me wonder less if would I have made the right choice in the moment and more if would have had the courage to repent once I had failed.

I’m disappointed in Noem’s decision, just as I’m disappointed in how virtually every political conservative I’ve been impressed by over the years has done something stupid or compromised in some significant way. But I want to avoid the bitterness that comes from thinking if I’d been there I would have held the line. I would have stood for the truth. I would have been the one with boldness and resolution.

I wouldn’t have. Not every time. I know that because I haven’t.


Cross Politic dedicated their most recent episode to this and it was all critical of Noem.


This sure sounds different than Pence’s or Noem’s approach.

I understand what you are saying here, Aaron, and it’s very appropriate for a pastoral approach. But power and governance are not pastoral situations (though I hope both Pence and Noem have pastors they listen to). Our times demand political leaders who don’t shrink from a fight. Pence and Noem have demonstrated that they aren’t that. So, next.

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The other thing I want to say is, ok, I’ll give you homosexuality and effeminacy. If a politician lacks spine there, it’s understandable and forgiveable.

But trans ideology? We can’t stand up to literal insanity? In a ruby red state with no meaningful opposition from the Democrats? It’s too much to ask for you to say that men are men and women are women and they should be in separate bathrooms?

If that’s the case, turn the lights out. We’re done. Never ask us to vote for you for anything ever again.


Really? When it’s 2024 and the options are either Noem or Harris, you’re going to so hold this against her you’d risk another Harris term? (And no, I don’t think Noem will be on the ticket then…but work with me here.) Homosexuality is really that much less insane than transgenderism? Or does even that statement indicate how far we’ve been moved?

Look, I chose the lesser of two evils in 2012 and voted for Romney. I felt sick walking out of the polling station. In 2016 I’d been reading Bonhoeffer and could not justify making the same lesser of two evils choice again. I made a principled and knowingly futile third party vote, for all the good it did me. In 2020 I voted for Trump rather pleased with his actions both executively and legislatively; then 6th Jan. Voting completely in sync with our principles seems to be a choice we’re simply not allowed right now. That’s not to say that there aren’t principled reasons that stand behind our decisions. But let’s, at the very least, be honest enough to admit we’re all compromised on this. Every last one. Don’t misunderstand: that’s not to defend Noem. That’s to call ourselves to repentance and faith, especially in our political views.

Totally agree. We should have political leaders who make better decisions than what we’ve seen. But back on planet earth…

All I’m saying is that the pastoral dimension applies to us. As another post recently reflected on how many leaders go to Washington and, well, don’t end up Mr. Smith, I’m asking us, not our politicians, to consider how consistent we’ve been in our own lives. If we’re all so courageous, if we’re all so willing to make the hard call and take a stand, how come we can’t get a single candidate who is also similarly courageous? Why is God not giving us the leaders we think we so desperately need?

Or maybe there’s more to it. What’s the statement we keep hearing? Like priest like people.


The whole point of my posting this story about Noem is that the Moscow crowd has been pointing to Noem as a pillar of principle. She will defend religious freedom, motherhood, America and apple pie. Well…actually not so much. Actually with Noem, I suspect it’s libertarianism all the way down. What the chamber of commerce wants, it gets. There’s no higher principles here. And maybe Moscow should reconsider anathematizing those Christians who differ on these things?


Second thought: why does Moscow idolize Noem, or other political principles they hold firmly to? It is because their faith in societal transformation is great, but their faith in the ordinary means of grace and the preaching of the Word is small, too small. They’re apt to regard such preaching as “pietism” fit only for “churchmen.” I realize that’s a very uncharitable take, but look at their actions, not their words.


As I’ve commented before, in the polity of the United States, the people (collectively) are sovereign. Therefore, we have the sort of leaders that we have because those are the sort of leaders that we (collectively) want. Aside from God’s special providence, the only way for America to have strong Christian leaders is for America to be a strong Christian people (collectively).

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With a leader the quality of Noem, will it matter whether she or Harris is elected? America is currently on a crash course with reality as God created it, and America needs leadership who is prepared to break the backs of the destructive forces facing us. If Trump was insufficient for this, then will a Noem or a Pence really move the needle discernibly? Or will they just keep the chair at the Resolute desk warm until the Left can get back to its full-throttle kulturkampf?

I think another very important point here is that you were caught flat-footed at your conference and responded poorly. Both Noem and Pence caved with weeks of warning about what was coming. Any politician can respond poorly when ambushed at a press conference or on an airport concourse. Noem knew this was coming and caved. She could un-cave at any point and sign the bill on her desk. She hasn’t. If she did, I and most others would overlook this as a brief fit of madness. Ben is right: this is a cave to the Chamber of Commerce crowd, who never saw a culture war issue they didn’t want to betray America on. Maybe in 1980 when top marginal income tax rates were 90% or whatever, CofC issues were existential for America. But it’s 2021. The culture war is the only thing that matters right now, and it’s time to tell the CofC to go make the best deal they can with Amazon and the Democrats. America is more than a GDP with an army, she is a people and a culture.


Haven’t listened to much from Moscow in a while, but I’m aware of their support of Gov. Noem. I’m curious, do they recognize that a woman magistrate is both a sin on the part of the woman and a judgment on the part of God? And have they said anything about it?

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I have five daughters. None of them play sports.

We run into mask mandates every day. We deal with sports not at all. Equating the two is a mistake.

If I boycott every state that uses tax-funded, compulsory state indoctrination I will never host another event.

Education outranks sports. I think the Maccabees family was correct about Greek methods in Israel.

Shall I watch the people I don’t like so that I can catch them failing to live up to my convictions . . . so I can post about them?

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