As I write this, we are about 42 days before the mid-term election on November 6th. In circles of conversation I have heard the angst that politics causes around the family dinner table, at work, as well as in the church. Most people are aware that we live in a polarized time. Many Democrats, and many Republicans, feel with great conviction that their choice is the truly Christian one, but let’s face it; neither party today truly and fully embodies Christ’s values and neither presents the only right solution.
That being said, I have also discovered that many avoid conversation about politics for fear of offending and causing a break in a relationship. That is a legitimate concern. Human beings are social creatures-we like other people and we want to be liked by others. Care and consideration of others is a good thing. The piece that seems to be missing is the ability to engage in civil discourse. We seem to have lost the ability to respectfully disagree or to offer a differing opinion without ranker. The fact is, there is no escaping the political. Refusing to take a stance, is a political statement. It implies tacit agreement.
How do we examine, talk about, and maintain relationships that we value in this kind of climate?
Jesus resisted an oppressive empire in ways both overt and subversive. His message wasn’t inherently political, but it was a message that demanded people to live out a certain ethic. How do we determine what that ethic is? One approach is to look at two parables-The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and The Prodigal (Luke 15:11-32). These parables give insight into the love and care of neighbor as well as radical justice and forgiveness that Jesus shared throughout his ministry. Other passages that shape the Christian ethic are the Beatitudes (Matthew 5 or Luke 6:20 ff).
The passage in Hebrews 12 from The Message goes like this: “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God”. Jesus is who we follow: he is pioneer and perfecter of our faith. When hate or bigotry is encountered, where does Jesus lead his followers? The gospel go-to is the love and care of neighbor and radical justice and forgiveness. This was not a politically partisan platform for Jesus to be elected but instructions for our lives and how we are to act as Christians in the world.
Christians can’t avoid being political, but we can come together for respectful dialogue and creative political thinking. We can come together to affirm the Christ centered goals we share and argue reasonably and prayerfully for different ways to reach them.
Finally, make sure you are registered to vote. It is a commitment to civic engagement, to our Christian values to seek justice, and a first step of inclusion in the political process. On November 6th: vote faithfully. Encourage your family members and neighbors to vote. If they need a ride-take them.