Do your insides ever get jumbled up with anxiety when people talk politics? I’ve been there. (And I’m guessing I’ve contributed to the anxiety in others.)
I used to think that if everyone would just keep their impassioned ideals to themselves, we could avoid these tense exchanges. The problem with this false solution, however, is assuming that political ideals are something you can place in the corner (Baby style) while you continue on with the rest of life.
But the reason we get so impassioned about political issues is because it touches everything. There’s no putting politics in the corner. Politics is front-and-center, infusing how we relate to one another in society. We cannot bow out of politics without bowing out of the world—and that is not an option. (Well, unless you plan to live off-grid and detach from society completely. Most of us aren’t seriously interested in becoming reclusive, however.)
So. We have to find productive ways to express our political views to others. Our passionate, strong words can still be delivered in kindness and humility. And we need to do the deeper work of tracing back how we arrived to our positions.
For many Christians, this will require a critical assessment of the erroneous ways we’ve mixed and conflated snippets of Christian faith with our political stances and patriotism and nationalism. It would be a rare person whose faith hasn’t been swayed by the culture—even Christian sub-culture. For so long, Christian faithfulness has been tied to holding particular political positions. Fear-based narratives of the need to win a culture war have soaked in deep. We’ve been influenced in ways that contradict the Gospel.
In addition to assessing our own positions and how we communicate them, we have to learn to listen to the political views of others. People who think differently are not automatically the enemy. Reframing our political filter will take extra work; we have to learn how to not be immediately defensive or dismissive or belittling of opposing views.
For many Christians, this will require seeing beyond the issues to learn why a person holds certain views. We must refuse to demonize the Other, and instead assume the best. We must learn to ask questions instead. And we need to get comfortable being in the presence of people who think differently. If we are only around those who think like we do, we’ll sink deeper into partisan politics and mind-numbing groupthink.
I want to learn and grow in my political understanding and discourse. Want to learn with me? Check out the conversation that’s just started on Persuasion in the new series, For God and Country. In each episode, we’ll look at another way faith and politics collide and seek ways to grow in our understanding. I hope you’ll listen along! I’d love to know how the conversation helps you grow in this election season.