Discussing Politics with Those We Love

Taken from Christian Care Ministry Blog

Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Politics is simply people coming together in a structured way to live alongside one another. It should be natural to expect tension and conflict along with politics, but I believe that deep down we all understand that our politics are broken.

That brokenness isn’t that there are people who disagree with you or I, the brokenness is that our tension and conflict drive us apart. No longer are we living alongside those in our communities, forced by circumstances to deal with our differences, instead we have found ways to retreat into circles and spaces of likeminded individuals that help us feel justified in our beliefs.

Until holiday dinners/family gatherings…then the powers of family bonds bring us into proximity with those who’ve dwelt in different circles of likeminded people. Perhaps we are “mature enough” to avoid the talk of politics altogether or perhaps the table because an ideological battlefield where opposing viewpoints are thrown at each other with varying levels of aggression. Either way we all leave feeling anxious or frustrated or, perhaps, just tired.

This is politics at its worst, a tool of division that has, over the last decade, likely done more harm than good.

Politics at Its best is simply people coming together in a structured way to live alongside one another.

I have a friend that when politics came up, we clearly stated our thoughts, listened to the other person, found areas of common ground, admitted where we disagreed, and moved on. We don’t have a false comfort that could be ruined if someone brings up “that topic,” nor have we destroyed a friendship simply because we have different political affiliations and beliefs.

You see, politics at its best isn’t a divider, but a unifier. Paul is writing to a church under persecution. I’m not a Biblical historian, but the Christians in Rome were living in a time and land far more hostile than the United States today.

I don’t believe that Christians have the right to end friendships and family relationships over issues of politics, no matter how passionate we feel about them. Of course, others may distance themselves from us and we can’t force them to return, but we ourselves simply cannot say “I choose to no longer do life with you because you think _______.”

Romans 12:14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.

When talking about this issue with my friends, we realized that often when we talk about politics with those we disagree with, we have the tendency to stop seeing them, instead of seeing the issue.

Let’s say I disagree with someone on the issue of taxation. Perhaps, I believe in increasing taxation to help those in need. I tell a friend this, and he disagrees, saying he believes taxes should be cut to allow capitalism to thrive, and allow all people to excel based on their own merits.

Now, during conversation, it can be easy for me to take my feelings about the issue and transplant them on the person. Since I feel his beliefs on taxes would increase poverty and hurt people, I begin to see him as someone who hates the poor and wants to abuse them.

Now, as you read that, you know that’s not rational. His feelings on taxation do not allow me to make character judgments.

And yet, sometimes we do it.

To be honest with you, life is easier that way. Putting someone in a mental box labelled “Hate the Poor” is faster and easier than wrestling with the complexities of someone who is made in the image of the Creator.

So, what should we do instead? Paul tells us to “bless them.” For me, I take this very literally. When speaking with someone I disagree with, especially a family member or another believer, I pray for them in my mind as we speak…not that God would give me the words to convince them of what I think, but I pray for them.

More than once, I remember praying in my mind for my friend, when I was in a political discussion with her, “Lord, to bless her.” It kept me grounded and focused on my friend and her status as a daughter of God and not someone “from that party.”

This shouldn’t be abnormal for us Christians. On the cross, literally as He was dying, Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

We should repent every time we’ve looked at a friend or family member (or stranger) and thought unkind or hateful thoughts on them for any reason, least of all about their political views.