Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Christians, Let Nice Politics Prevail

It is one of two topics that has a way of bringing out the ugly, hateful, and mean in even the best of us. We let our emotions get all tied up in it, as we see others' differences as personal attacks. It is one of two topics on which we base our most fundamental and most deeply held values. It can strain or even end the closest of friendships. It divides us even if we are united about all other things. And yes, even in the Christian community, we allow our disagreements to turn into shouting matches or to decide to walk away from each other. Politics.

The Problem

We Christians in the West, and particularly in the US, are blessed to live in a democracy. The beauty of it lies in the fact that we can actively participate in it, petition our politicians for change, and we can even criticize our political leaders and disagree on politics. In so many countries, people are denied their human rights in these basic matters. We Christians have, in recent decades, grown very politically active. Yet in this political activity so many of us seem to have gotten involved in the wrong ingredients. Many Christians subscribe to staunch Conservative views, as the "religious right." Their support of the Republican party lies in prioritizing the sanctity of the life of the unborn, traditional marriage, and the work ethic. Nothing wrong with that! Another major faction in the Christian community subscribe to the Progressive view, as the "religious left." They base their support on the Biblical ethics of compassion for the poor, equal rights for the disenfranchised in society, strengthening workers through economic incentives, and promoting the celebration of our differences. Nothing wrong with that! There is, in my opinion, a valid place in the Body of Christ for both viewpoints. There is no place for sitting in judgment on each other, fighting with other, and shunning each other over our different views. Yet that is what I see going on in my Facebook network too often. And yes, it happens among us Christians.

My Experience

Because of my life experience, I had never identified fully with the "religious right" and I did not feel that I really fit in with them. "Christians don't let Christians vote Democrat," one bumper sticker at a Lutheran church we attended at the time, declared. In another church, a person was talking in a low voice, thinking we could not hear her, I guess. The topic was national health care. In a low voice, she stated, "I agree that people ought to have health insurance. I just do not think that it is the government's responsibility to provide it." I can go on and on. Those were two relatively mild examples. One day I requested a fellow church member to sign a petition to the Governor to reverse Medicaid cuts imposed on us by then Governor Matt Blunt. She refused to support me, saying, "I hate to take it out on the children, but people use EBT cards to buy alcohol. So I can't support this. Call it the sins of the fathers being visited on the children, but that's how I feel." So I was more attracted to the Progressive view, except for the view on marriage equality for gays and lesbians and the apparent silence on abortion. When I began to "friend" Christians and expand my social networks, I found that the overwhelming majority subscribed to Conservative views and disliked President Obama. A Facebook page, Christians Against Obama, sprung up and had much support among the Christian community. I found myself hiding many posts that vilified President Obama, and too many of those posts were by Christians. The one time I could not take any more Obama-bashing by a Christian Facebook friend, and I kindly but honestly called her out on it. She "unfriended" me. Given how even we Christians allow our biases, hate, and fear rule us when we discuss politics or religion, I regret simply doing what I usually do, ignore her over-the-top post. But, should I have to? Shouldn't we Christians engage each other on topics we care about, disagree but remain united in love?

The Solution

Where does this leave us? I know I have lost Facebook friendships because people did not like my politics. One of those deletions came from a Christian Facebook friend whom I had supported, encouraged, and prayed for. This lets me know that political differences often serve as deal-breakers even when relationships are otherwise good. Maybe, given how this topic puts people so emotionally on edge, and obviously put my Christian Facebook's emotions on edge, I should just have shut up and hidden her post in my feed. That is the sinful nature that resides even in us Christians. But even though some Christians seem to think we are exempted from honoring our President, the command still applies to us. Yet in too many Christian posts, I see that command being ignored or disobeyed. When the Bible tells, "We must obey God before man," He did not mean that we become anti-Government or spread hate about the President. Yes, I know that our politicians have failed us in many ways. They have lied to us. They put their petty party differences before our national good. Many of them fall prey to their passions and disgrace their high offices. I get disgusted, too. Yet we are told to pray for them. God obviously knew that politicians need a lot of prayer! Maybe if we all prayed more and attacked each other and our Government less, the world would be a better place. Right?

Let's be nice in our politics, brothers and sisters in Christ. As Jesus prayed for all of us the night before His crucifixion, "My prayer is that they be one." It's called unity in diversity.

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