We live in a culture that thrives on opinion. I’m a writer. I understand the impulse to pick a thesis and support it with as much gusto as possible. That’s what drives clicks and views. People don’t want to see nuance. They want hard-nosed opinions.
But what happens when everyone starts sharpening their own opinions into finer and increasingly blood-soaked points?
Before we go any farther, I must acknowledge my own complicity. Just last week, I shared a post on Facebook that was clearly political. I’ve started to do this with more regularity since college, especially on Facebook. I do that, because I know my Facebook feed tends to be more conservative. I’m probably not as conservative as many of my Facebook friends, but I’m surely more conservative than most of the people I follow on Twitter. Theoretically, I like finding the middle ground that affords. In practice, though, I must admit that I sometimes stray too far from that middle ground.
This particular post sparked a slew of comments. Fine — no problem yet. I think it’s a *very* good thing to foster discussion. The thing is — this discussion didn’t end up being very healthy. I did something that I usually never do — I deleted the post. I deleted it because I just didn’t feel right. I felt restless knowing that I had sparked that. Once I hit the delete button, a weight was lifted.
But that made me think — why had I even posted that in the first place?
Sure, I wanted to share my opinion. Yes, I wanted to challenge the opinions of some of my Facebook connections. Again, in theory, I don’t think those are wholly bad things. But they must be handled right, and this gets me to the reason for this post’s title.
Faith and Politics
Did this header make you put up your guard at all? They’re the two things we aren’t supposed to talk about, right? But see, to me, these are two extremely important topics. Why would we stay silent about them?
Because things get so heated so quickly, right?
Yeah, I hear you. It’s really hard to have healthy conversations when it comes to politics. We can’t control the people on the other side of the discussion. But you know who we can control?
Yeah, you got it — ourselves.
Again, I’m just as bad at this as anyone, if not worse. I come to discussions of faith and politics with a lot of baggage. I grew up in a conservative, Christian environment. While I may not be as conservative politically as I was back then, my faith remains the foundation of my life. I love God, and I make it my life’s goal to follow the teachings of Jesus and grow in my relationship with Him every day.
That’s why it is so hard for me when I see Christian brothers and sisters who are so staunchly supportive of the Republican Party above all else. And this is coming from someone who is a registered Republican (but only because Indiana will not let you register as an independent). Do the Democrats have it all figured out? Surely they do not. But it seems so clear to me that so many Christians have blinders on when it comes to Republican policies. It seems like, as long as a Republican says its okay, Christians are content to follow along — no matter how it looks in light of Scripture. But you know what?
I could be wrong.
It seems that Christians are so dead-set on one topic (abortion) that they lose sight of how many Republican policies don’t support the sanctity of all life — including the lives that continue after birth. Is abortion wrong? Yes, I believe it is in the large majority of cases (a very nuanced discussion for another time). But I also believe that if you support the sanctity of infant life, you need to support the sanctity of all lives when it comes to healthcare initatives and common-sense gun measures. But you know what?
I could be wrong.
The thing that whole deleted Facebook post debacle showed me is that I was coming into the discussion with the notion that I was right and I was going to show all my conservative friends. That’s not healthy, and it’s not right.
I apologize to any friends I may have hurt along the way.
At other times, I feel that I’ve posted “political” posts on Facebook that have sparked healthy discussion. I think it is important that we talk about difficult subjects with each other. But I think the only way that healthy discussions can emerge is if we all come to the table acknowledging the possibility that we might be wrong. More than that, we must acknowledge that the people on the other side of the discussion are not “bad” people.
One of my favorite teachings in Scripture is that of the imago dei. It is the truth that all humans — every single person you come into contact with — are created in the image of God. Each one of us is a beautiful reflection of that greatest Beauty. Too often, we lose sight of that and minimize the beauty inherent within all of us. We forget that we are talking to a bearer of the imago dei — whether it’s a face-to-face conversation or a thread on social media.
Again, I am as much of a culprit here as anyone. I come to this specific discussion from a place of having been humbled by my own hubris. Again, I sincerely apologize to anyone I may have hurt.
Standing and Inviting
We are all growing and changing constantly. As I said before, my political leanings have changed in many ways over the last five years or so. I think we must acknowledge that capacity to change as we engage with others on these important topics.
The last thing I want to do with this post is encourage people to shy away from civic engagement. We need more engagement right now, not less. We need more people voting and more people calling their senators and representatives. Just yesterday I called my represenative to share opinions in advance of the midterm elections. For our country to work, I think we need everyone to be engaged.
However, when it comes to Christians and politics, I’ve thought many times over the last few years that maybe it’s time for Christians to pull back from the political sphere. Jesus called us to love others, and He didn’t talk so much about enacting change through politics.
The problem with that is that silence is really support of the status quo. What if the status quo goes against the teachings of Scripture? How are Christians expected to stay silent?
A recent New York Times op-ed by Tim Keller spoke to this perfectly. He drew parallels back to the days of slavery when too many churches were content to let the status quo continue despite how contrary to Scripture they knew it to be. We cannot let similar things occur today. And so, Christians must continue to be engaged.
But I like what Mr. Keller has to say specifically about how Christians engage with the two-party system. I encourage you to go read the post itself. It’s linked above, but here’s another link just to make it easier.
Opinion | How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don't
The historical Christian positions on social issues don't match up with contemporary political alignments. By Timothy…
I don’t think either party fully encapsulates a Christian ethic. I think the love of God is so far above any political party that it’s laughable to think one party would be the “Christian” party. I think in some ways the Republican party holds more to Christian ethics, but in other ways I think the Democrat party does. But you know what?
I could be wrong.
Overall, if I can leave you with anything here besides the notion that I acknowledge how I have gone overboard in the past, it would be this:
Be engaged. Stand up for what you believe in. Have opinions and be willing to share them in discussion with others.
At the same time, don’t stand alone.
Invite others into your circle so that they can inform you and challenge you where you need it. I have friends that do that for me, and I cherish that so much.
There’s a lot of bad in our world, but there is so much good too. May we have the courage to stand up for our beliefs and speak out against injustice. We cannot stay silent, because silence is an implicit support of the status quo. However, we also cannot push each other into our own echo chambers by sharing our opinions with increasing levels of vitriol. The only way I know to accomplish this is by coming to the discussion from a place of humility and acknowleding the beauty in the person on the other end of the discussion. For me, that notion finds its foundation in my faith in God. Unfortunately, I do not always live that out well. I am not perfect, but I’m striving to grow every day.
May you be blessed today, and may we all work together to fight against injustice and to support the many great works being done in our land. It takes each one of us standing up, and inviting others to stand with us. At its heart, I don’t think that’s about sharing our opinion, but about finding common ground. But you know what?
I could be wrong.