Am I only noticing because the political conventions have followed one after the other this past week? Or am I the only person out there with both Red and Blue friends? Whatever the reason may be, lately I’ve felt besieged by friends’ partisan Facebook posts.
The posts range from cheap shots to substantive arguments to regurgitating talking points to tired cliche and rumors to baseless attacks. The posters range from liberal Democrats to conservative Tea Partiers. According to my ‘friends’ Mitt Romey is a heartless Gilded Age Robber Baron and President Obama is a Maoist bent on our destruction.
It’s ironic that even though I do not have cable (or even watch television) or listen to commercial radio I’m already weary of the campaign attacks.
I suppose this is the first presidential election I’ve experienced as a user of Facebook and social media.
What’s surprising to me is how people will blatantly assault other people with their political views on FB when politics still ranks up there with God and Sex as taboos in face-face conversation. Even more surprising to me- not sure why it surprises me, actually- is that so many FB users either assume everyone else agrees with them or, worse, don’t care if you do or not and, even worse, don’t care if it insults or offends you.
All this just goes to show, I suspect, that FB Friends aren’t necessarily friends. At least friendship still necessitates some measure of civility even in this heated political climate. And civility necessitates you know, actual, listening.
The pettiness, meanness and avoidance of complexity (who actually believes America’s challenges, problems or successes begin and end when one Presidential Administration begins and another ends?) are all reminders to me that Christians should be cautious about their political loyalties and identification.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Barthian through and through but it’s naive to think either party’s platforms capture the peculiar nature of what it means to follow Jesus- as scripture says: ‘Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ does so in earnest. And it’s dangerous for Christians to forget that our first loyalty is to Christ not to party or, even, to country.
That’s why, I think, civility and truthfulness should always trump partisan point-scoring because as followers of Jesus we care more about people than party, platform or politics.
With that in mind, here’s a good reminder list about Christians and politics from Relevant.
Political discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity—the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.
IT’S TIME WE TALK POLITICS IN A WAY THAT MODELS THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS RATHER THAN MOCKS THEM.
Not only are believers excused for their political indiscretions, but they are often applauded for committing them. Slander is explained away as righteous anger; winning arguments are esteemed higher than truthful ones (whether or not the “facts” align); and those who stir up dissension are given the pulpit. So I balk when pastors tell me the Church should engage in the political process. Why would we do that? The political process is dirty and broken and far from Jesus. Paranoia and vitriol are hardly attractive accessories for the bride of Christ.
Rather than engage in the political process, Christians have a duty to elevate it. Like any other sin, we are called to stand above the partisan dissension and demonstrate a better way. Should we have an opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Yes. Should we vote? Yes. But it’s time we talk politics in a way that models the teachings of Jesus rather than mocks them.
Here are seven things to remember about politics:
1. Both political parties go to church.
There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right. Edwina Rogers is a Republican lobbyist and head of the Secular Coalition for America. She’s a Republican, and her entire job is devoted to keeping religion out of the U.S. government. Party lines are drawn in chalk, and they’re not hard to cross. The Church must be engaged in politics, but it must not be defined by the arbitrary lines in politics.
2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings.
When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners. If we give our favorite political ideologues more time than we give Jesus, we are following the wrong master. There are unbiased, logical and accurate news sources out there. But it’s up to you to be a good steward of information—to fact-check for yourself, take ideology with a grain of salt and make decisions based on facts rather than gossip.
3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others.
They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith (Proverbs 10:12; 2 Timothy 2:23-25; James 4:1) and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to make gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.
IF YOU’RE MOCKING YOUR GOVERNING LEADERS ON FACEBOOK, THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GRIEVED.
4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake.
The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them—and it will make you obsolete in a few years. Every four years, the parties adopt a current, updated platform at their respective conventions. And while they stay on general tracks, every four years the platform evolves to meet the needs of a growing, modernized and changing party. The Republican party of today doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago. We need to know when to change our views to meet a changing culture—and when to stand by them.
Here’s the rest.