This political system we’re in ain’t what it should be, in many ways. And it’s full of false dichotomies and caricatures and enmity and division.
In the pursuit of peace and unity, I would like to invite you to join me in an exercise. (Don’t worry, it’s not a physical exercise. Have you met me?)
Here we go. React to this: I’m in the opposite political party from yours.
Really. Like, picture it. Let it sink in. If you’re a Democrat, I’m a Republican. If you’re a Republican, I’m a Democrat.
How does that make you feel toward me?
Does it raise your hackles? Are you appalled? Irritated? Angry with me? Do you think I must be different from what you thought? Do you like me less as a person? Are you disappointed in me? You thought you knew me, you thought you knew my heart! But now…[smh]
But now, pause for a moment. Set all that aside. Think about what you know of me in our relationship — how we’ve talked, laughed, enjoyed things, enjoyed each other, agreed on things. Maybe I’ve encouraged you. Maybe we’ve worked on something together. Maybe we’ve celebrated something (or someone) together. When you think of who I am, can you give me the benefit of the doubt? I care. I love people. I love you. I follow Jesus. I want the best for you, for everyone, for the country. Even if I think it might be accomplished in a different way, that’s my goal. Just like it’s your goal.
Instead of letting my political persuasion change your opinion of me, can you — would you — take your knowledge of me (let’s focus on my nicer points for this exercise, shall we?), and let it change your perception of what a ‘political opponent’ might be like? And extend that ‘benefit of the doubt’ to other people in my political party? This may feel impossible. And it’s true that not everyone in my party is very much like me. But I promise, a LOT of them are.
Because here’s the thing: I know and love many loving, caring, truth-pursuing, working-for-everyone’s-good, Jesus-following people in both parties. I see hypocrites and power-mongers in both parties, too. So it’s not as simple as ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s not as simple as ‘we’re so right’ and ‘they’re so wrong.’ It’s not as simple as ‘we’re good’ and ‘they’re bad.’
Honestly, I don’t think any political party should be part of how we define ourselves. No political party will fix the world, or save the world. No political party will save even one person, not in the realest sense of that word. I may agree with a lot that a particular party says it stands for, but I see good points (and bad) in both parties. My hope and my identity are not rooted in either party. Not in a president, not in political power. Not even a little bit.
I know Who sets authorities in their places. I trust Him. He knows what He’s doing, even when I don’t. Even when it doesn’t make sense to me.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1)
This was true when it was written, even though the ‘governing authorities’ of that time were persecuting Christians and treating people terribly. And it was true in 2016. And it’s true in 2020. It’s true even when we disagree with the way the ‘governing authorities’ handle things. God is bigger than all of that. His plan is bigger.
So. Maybe all I’ll succeed at here is making everyone mad at me…but I hope not. I hope, instead, that I can promote some unity, or at least a softening toward one another. An extending of the benefit of the doubt. A willingness to have real conversations, to ask questions, and to listen to the answers and ponder them, looking for the heart of the matter, rather than simply working to defend or convince or dismiss, no matter which side of the political spectrum you most agree with.
If you have a negative idea of ‘what a Republican is,’ I hope you’ll begin to see that not every Republican is the same, and not every Republican is all bad (or bad at all). Many of them love and care just like you do, even if they disagree with the way you prioritize things, or with the best way to accomplish the best for everyone.
If you have a negative idea of ‘what a Democrat is,’ I hope you’ll begin to see that not every Democrat is the same, and not every Democrat is all bad (or bad at all). Many of them love and care just like you do, even if they disagree with the way you prioritize things, or with the best way to accomplish the best for everyone.
There are good people working for good things on both sides.
We all have our political leanings. But we don’t have to agree on a political party in order to love each other, to listen to each other, to try to understand each other, to be kind to each other. We don’t have to agree on politics in order to work together, to pursue peace with each other, to pursue good for all the people in our country. We don’t have to agree on government policies in order to stop being negative toward each other.
The first step is to stop caricaturing and accusing and vilifying those who disagree with us. This won’t be easy. It goes against our culture. But if we begin to ask genuine, thoughtful questions, really wanting to understand the answers, about why others believe what they do, why they lean the way they lean, why they agree and disagree with whichever party, I guarantee some of the answers will surprise us with their heart and thoughtfulness. And once we begin to understand better, we can begin to really work together — or at least stop tearing each other apart.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1-2)