I just got done reading some comments that were posted on a friend's facebook wall in response to something she had posted about her candidate of choice. It was fascinating in a really sad sort of way. From their comments I gathered that they were, presumably, Christians. Some agreed with her. Others didn't. But the whole tone of the cyber-conversation was argumentative and I think if I hadn't have been a fascinated reader in a sociological-study sort of way, but instead a bystander overhearing this conversation, I would have written both sides off and walked away. I don't know these people, and I am sure that they are passionate, opinionated, politically astute people who I would respect if I knew them, perhaps even hang out with if we were talking about other things. I certainly respect my friend, who instigated the comments with her post. It's just that it made me wonder how effective it is for Christians to get involved in debating politics. Please don't get me wrong. I do believe that Christians should be active in politics at every level - from voting, to volunteering, to public service in elected positions. It's just that politics has become so polarized, so partisan, so polemic that it is problematic for a Christian to also be a witness of Christ's love.
Not impossible, just problematic
Was Christ polarizing and polemic? Of course, so I do not have a problem with that characteristic. He also refused to get caught up with politics. Does that mean we shouldn't be involved in politics? No. I can't draw that conclusion because that would open up a dangerous line of reasoning. But it is interesting to note: Jesus was all about salvation, and that salvation wasn't political. I guess I'd rather be polarizing if it's about standing up for Jesus than if it's standing up for a candidate.
What I have noticed is this: as soon as I identify my political opinions, people want to argue with me or bash the opposition with me. I'll admit, I do not like conflict. At all. So, perhaps this is all about my need to have peace. As a once beaten man said pleading for peace on the third day of the LA Riots in 1992, "Can we all get along?" Another man, also beaten, said "as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18)," and "do everything without complaining or arguing, for this is the will of God (Philippians 2:14)."
There must be a way to discuss differences of opinion without being so acrimonious. Do we really need to talk about peoples' level of intelligence if they disagree with us? Can we assume we are talking with intelligent people who have made up their minds for a reason and consider those reasons as valid even though they may differ? I'm talking about both sides here.
Another thing I've noticed is this: people tend to lump political views into one big label. "The Right Wing," "The Liberal Left." Sometimes I'm thrown in with one, sometimes I'm cast in the other. It depends on who I'm talking to, and what we're talking about. My opinions don't change, although they can evolve.
In politics, in our society, labels are prevalent. They are necessary for the political pundits and the propaganda machine - on both sides - to do their job. It's just that I can't quite be labeled. I don't want to be labeled. At least not with partisan political name-tags. Once I get labled, there are assumptions made that may or may not be true. It's hard to communicate clearly when assumptions are being made.
Which gets me back to the problem I observe when Christians get identified with one political party. It shuts off lines of communication with some people. And, when you are trying to share the Gospel, that's not a good thing. Again, it's problematic, not impossible. It's just something that Christians should think about when they "argue" their case for their candidate.
If they will know we are Christians by our love, then I wonder what non-Christians think when they hear or read some of the comments made by Christians about the candidates or their followers? And, would they be attracted to Christ in us when we're discussing politics?These are just some things I'm wondering about. I don't have answers. I do think it's important for Christians to be involved in the political process, but I am also concerned about how we carry ourselves when we are. Because, at the end of the day, at the end of Time, it will be about what we said and did for Christ that matters.