The other day I was talking to a 7 year old kid and out of nowhere he asked me who I’m going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election.
“I’m not quite sure yet,” I said.
In actuality, I’m mostly convinced about who to vote for but I didn’t feel like it was my place to discuss politics with the kid.
He went on to say, “I heard that what’s her name [Clinton] doesn’t like Christianity.” I shook my head and said, “That’s not true.” Then the kid looked pretty confused. I guess looking back on it, I don’t really know if that’s true or not. I don’t know her, obviously, but the information I’ve gathered doesn’t lead me to believe that to be the case.
I realize I may be committing social (media) suicide with this post but this short conversation got me thinking.
I used to love movies and stories with a hero and a villain. The Lord of the Rings, Superman, all kinds of war movies… they all have very distinct and obvious heroes and villains. I still like these movies (most recently I watched Star Wars: Episode VII, only my 2nd ever Star Wars movie and really started to get the hype) but the stories don’t have as much appeal to me as they once did. I think we love these stories because we can easily distinguish the good guys from the bad guys and most of us love to root for the good guys to win at the end. I totally get it. I mean, who wants the bad guys to win? Movies that end like that leave us unsettled and unresolved. Most of us want to believe there is still hope in the world and good people will win in the end. Essentially, we want to live in a black and white world.
But the world is not absolutely black and white.
If you’ve lived long enough, life has a way of teaching you (or kicking you) into a very gray world. The things we thought were right and wrong sometimes flip their heads, and the people who we believed were good or bad switch positions. And when we start to go inward, we realize there is good and bad in all of us. To be honest, it’s much easier to live in a black and white world and to function in that type of duality than to possibly entertain the thought that the world could be black, white, gray and all kinds of colors in between. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about moral relativism. Of course there is good and evil in the world. But there are also a host of areas that cannot and will not be defined in such narrow terms.
Why do I bring this up? Well, in this season of political mudslinging and polarization in our country, I have witnessed more demonization of persons than ever in recent memory. He’s dumb. She’s irresponsible. He’s unqualified. She can’t be trusted. And then sooner or later (usually sooner), He’s evil. She’s evil.
I can go on. It has gotten out of control. You’ve seen it, too, I’m sure. When the topic of politics comes up, people tend to become antagonistic, visceral, hostile, combative. Nasty words are used and sweeping accusations are made mostly based on assumptions and hearsay. We’ve committed violence with our words and thoughts, and have made enemies of each other. By the end of the conversation, it often turns into, You’re dumb. You don’t know anything. And then sometimes even, You’re a terrible person [for thinking/believing that]. You’re evil.
Actually, I confess I’ve done it, too. I’m far from nonpartisan and I’ve demonized far too many people and situations. Some things just seem so obvious to me it’s hard to understand why anyone would support such views, positions, candidates. But our allegiance as Christians, as much as one would tell us otherwise, is not first to our country or a political party or a particular candidate. Our first call is to follow Jesus. That actually makes things much harder to discern on a political spectrum. I personally believe there are conclusions we can draw based on the facts presented that will lead us to the best candidate for the job. I’m not writing this, however, to convince you to pick one specific candidate (as much as I’d like to!). The truth of the matter is, there is no hero and there is no villain here. No one person is going to save our country and no one person is going to bring our country to ruin. That’s the beauty of democracy. We choose based on our conscience and conviction. Does that mean we don’t speak out against certain views that either candidate may express that clearly go against our values/beliefs? Absolutely not. Let’s be passionate and vocal. But also empathetic and generous in our interactions. And let’s listen. Let’s listen and go beneath the surface to understand where the other person is coming from.
Let’s try our best to love each other through this political season.
(4 years ago I wrote some lyrics during election season which I have yet to complete into a song. But there is a song that already exists that always reminds me to stay the course. Check it out below, and I’ve included the lyrics underneath.)
A King & A Kingdom by Derek Webb (courtesy of derekwebb.net)
Who’s your brother, who’s your sister
You just walked past him, I think you missed her
As we’re all migrating to a place where our Father lives
‘Cause we married into a family of immigrants
*So my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a King and a Kingdom
There are two great lies that I’ve heard
The day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will not surely die
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle class Republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like him*
And nothing unifies like a common enemy
And we’ve got one sure as hell
He may be living in your house
He may be raising up your kids
He may be sleeping with your wife
Oh he may not look like you think