We have just under 90 days to the election. The Democrat and Republican camps are as divided as ever. People are frustrated after months of rioting and lockdowns; the loss of businesses and jobs have just made things worse.
Isolated in their homes, Americans are spending more time watching or reading their favorite political sources. There are no shared sources of information that the majority of Americans trust. Both sides claim the other is guilty of “fake news.” The fabric of America’s mosaic is splitting down the middle.
With so much uncertainty, division, and time on our hands, America is primed to explode. The old adage holds true, “When in pain, find someone to blame.” Both sides are busy blaming the other, and the temperature of the rhetoric is going up and showing no signs of settling down.
A cursory look at social media gives ample evidence that even families are splitting and unfriending one another. Things are said and shared that are hard to take back. It’s understandable. Social media is subject to quick, emotional responses, and conflict spreads like wildfire.
You would hope that faith communities would be a force for more acceptance of our differences. After all, we belong to a bigger Kingdom of God where our expectations are different. At least, that is how our faith challenges us to be.
There are Christians of all stripes and colors, all ages and politics. When asked about what commandments mattered, Jesus summed it up with two: “You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
That requires putting faith above politics. To Christians, loving your enemies, even political enemies, is expected. There are many liberals and conservatives worthy of respect. We’re not called to agree on politics, but we are called to disagree without being quite so disagreeable. Unfortunately, even in the church, there are cracks in the kingdom because of the divisions we face. The name calling evidenced online is far from the love we’re called to show.
Noted Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis, once warned, “Most of us are not really approaching the subject in order to find out what Christianity says: We are approaching it in the hope of finding support from Christianity for the views of our own party. We are looking for an ally where we are offered either a Master or—a Judge.”
There are no perfect candidates or political parties. Why would we expect there would be? As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Rome, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That doesn’t exclude candidates or voters.
In the political environment we are in, it’s hard to have respect for any politician. The media seems to want to find the worst in both candidates to destroy any heroes we might have. Why? To get ratings, not elevate political conversation.
Ariana Pekary, a former MSNBC producer, left the network and wrote an open letter explaining that the far-left network is a “cancer” that is “stoking national division.” Pekary said, “As it is, this cancer stokes national division, even in the middle of a civil rights crisis. The model blocks diversity of thought and content because the networks have incentive to amplify fringe voices and events, at the expense of others… all because it pumps up the ratings.” Pekary concluded her letter by writing, “More than ever, I’m craving a full and civil discourse.”
In the next few months in a divided country, what is our calling as Christians? Loving our neighbor and our “enemies” leaves no room for hate. Yes, we ought to vote and thoughtfully consider why we do so, but we should seek first to understand and not condemn those we disagree with.
There is no evidence that in heaven there will be a Republican and Democrat section. Our faith should show how love helps us communicate with those we disagree with politically. Lewis liked to say as it related to earthly politics, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in;’ Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
But what does it mean to aim at heaven, not earth? Jesus didn’t come to change governments in Rome or Jerusalem. He came to change people’s hearts and their relationship with God. C.S. Lewis may have gotten it right, “He who converts his neighbor has performed the most practical Christian-political act of all.” At this time of division, maybe the church ought to put more of an emphasis on sharing the Gospel and the need to love even our political enemies.
In his column, “Let the Politicians Act Like Politicians; the Rest of Us Should Be Better,” Neil Patel said, “If we don't stop demonizing our opponents and twisting any slip of the tongue to give it the worst possible meaning, we will not climb out of the national tailspin we are in.”
Some are talking of a cultural civil war. The only person you control is yourself, so start by letting your love for your neighbor show. Seek first to understand. Listen more. Ask questions to clarify and appreciate your differences before you ever ask to be heard about your own views. Then do your part. Make your case and trust God’s hand will be on this election without you having to demonize your neighbor.