Peaceful Politics?

by | Dec 8, 2015 | Faith

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:12-18

The Problem

There’s nothing like current events to remind us all that we don’t really agree on anything. From refugees to gun control, Planned Parenthood to preventing terrorism, there’s a lot to disagree about, and that’s exactly what the general public in the United States does. Visit any comments section and you’ll see that we’ve become so defensive that we see every issue as White vs. Black, rich vs. poor, Republican vs. Democrat, and a multitude of other factors that have divided us into a society that is so set in “Us” vs. “Them” that we can’t even function enough to compromise.

When we find ourselves within the safe confines of an “Us” group of people, we let loose. We often resort to ad hominem attacks and generalizations that dehumanize our opponent. We call them ignorant and bigoted or attack their morality. And unfortunately, as far as the political realm goes, these sorts of generally hateful behavior aren’t exclusive to one end of the political spectrum. As a slightly liberal moderate, I’ve seen (and regretfully participated in— Lord have mercy) demeaning attitudes from all parts of the political spectrum. People suspect that I’m one of the “Us” group, so their walls come down and discussions can get pretty nasty.

The Solution

But what good does it all do? Does calling someone ignorant or a “libtard” really accomplish anything except spreading hate and widening the ever-growing chasm between us even more? I’ve come to believe that this “Us” vs. “Them” is a human mentality that truly stems from the presence of sin in society. When we look at the perfect example of Jesus, we see nothing but inclusivity, especially for those who should have been a “Them” to a religious leader of the time: prostitutes, shady tax collectors, women, Samaritans, the ostracized, and the ill.

Time after time, we see Jesus leaning into relationship with the “other”. Some of his best friends were women, whom he would have been strongly encouraged to avoid as a religious leader of the time. He touched lepers, something that would be the equivalent of going to sit with an H1N1-positive friend without any protective gear today. He pushed for a last-as-the-first and first-as-the-last-upside-down Kingdom of God mentality that benefitted the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, the widow and the orphan. Our merciful, humble Savior gave love freely to all. You can’t have “Us” and “Them” when everyone is beloved.

I’m not advocating that we all just tone down our convictions until we have the exact same opinions. Not only would that be an utter disaster, it would render an artificial solution that would be neither helpful nor honest. But, what I am saying is that instead of seeing others as “Us” vs. “Them,” we view them as beloved children of a transcendent God. And then, we treat them as such. Disagreeing civilly isn’t just an option. For Christians, it is a calling.

A Higher Way

The irony is that Jesus isn’t confined to our politics – they’re too shortsighted and nationalist. Right or left, anarchy, democracy or socialism, if we try to squeeze our giant God into our tiny political box, we will come up empty-handed every time. I imagine in the midst of our kicking and screaming, our verbal brawls and our ad hominem attacks, Jesus is watching us from a distance, waving his arms and saying, “I’m over here! Render to Caesar and let’s get on with it. There’s work to be done and the workers are few.”

The Kingdom of God extends an invitation for participation to all. In Christ, we are neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, refugee nor citizen, Republican nor Democrat. I challenge you to remember what we have in common with one another above all else, and that is that we are all masterful creations of God, that we are made to exude the image and love of our merciful Savior God, and that we are deeply and dearly beloved.

Hi there! I’m Kristen. I’m currently a first year MDIV student at St. Paul School of Theology. I’m a recovering know-it-all and am currently learning the art of having peace saying, “I don’t know.”

I’m married to my best friend, Ryan, and we currently reside in Olathe, KS, where we grew up. We have an ornery Tortoiseshell cat named Squeaky who ensures that we never have a dull moment. I enjoy learning about and [civilly] discussing theology, working on DIY projects, antiquing, editing people’s papers with my red pen and drinking Dr. Pepper. I find the subjects of social justice, mercy and kingdom ethics fascinating, and am always looking for ways in which to integrate what I learn into how I live my life.

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