Editors Note: Throughout the fall, bloggers Stephanie Phillips (R) and Juliet Vedral (D) have been exploring how to have civil and productive dialogue about politics, in light of their shared faith. They had planned to end their conversations after the election, but due to the increasing division, fear, and all out crazy that has taken hold of our great nation, theyve chosen to continue. For previous posts, click here.
As much as I am happy that the president has been re-elected, I am sorry for your loss. In fact, our friendship and dialogue has tempered my joy because, despite our ideologies, I know that you love this country too and want what you think is the best for it. What tempers my joy too is that so many people are unhappy and that our country is so divided. That division has even entered the church, the one place where because it was built on a sure foundation, should be the avant-garde of hope and unity right now.
I appreciate your point about feeling sad that Romney, who I would agree is probably a very decent man, will stay in some peoples minds as a heartless robot. Just like it grieves me that Obama, who has tried, even though hes been criticized by his own party, to find consensus is viewed as godless and all kinds of horrible. He says he is a Christian, and as an imperfect one who often misses the mark, it upsets me that our own church rejects him in favor of someone many of them recently would not have accepted because of his religion. More than ever, I see how partisanship and politics have infected our “Body” and I grieve that we as the American branch of the church, are not well.
Now is not the time to be right (and by that I mean correct, not “conservative”). Now is the time for the church, who has been tasked with showing our allegiance to Jesus through our love, to do just that. We are Americans. We are Christians. You are my sister. And I want to be a good friend you and what I can to help us heal.
We are always too willing to turn the other side into a caricature while granting those on our own team special allowances for their flaws and foibles. It really is just a combination of pride and hero-worship in that we feel some sense of control in the governing process (through voting, albeit limited by our representational systemseriously, have we outgrown the Electoral College yet?), and we want these guys (ahem, ladies also) who are representing us to be better than the average citizen. And its like, guess what? Theyre usually NOT. Because neither side, and no person, has a monopoly on solutions. The more I see this whole political game played out, the more I realize that the closest thing we have to a real solution is a compromise between what both sides want. And when it comes to power plays, no one is happy with a compromiseits like admitting weakness. But thats where our nation is right now: in a bitterly divided place with both sides pulling their end of the rope as ferociously as possible.
I have my ideas about what I think this nation needs most, and you have yours. And often, they are very different. But I think the fact that we dont look at each other with total distrustthat we know, like you said, that each of us wants what it best for this nationis where real dialogue and change begins. Now how do we get the rest of the country on board with our amazing attitudes?
And I do think, though I am conservative and a Christian, that the church has co-opted conservative politics, largely because of the abortion issue and the moral relativism of which they characterize the Left. But I think, more often than not, that dominance of right-side politics is about judgment rather than fairnessa reflection of just another kind of worldliness rather than the Biblical mandate that many church leaders feel they have. Meanwhile, Jesus is like, Whaaa? (direct quote)
And if I could add a quote from Karl Barth that was in my church bulletin this week: Life is really not made simpler or easier for the Christian. For he knows his inescapable solidarity with all men in their sorrow. Hence to know Jesus Christ is to become a responsible subject in the fight which Jesus Christ wages in the darkness against darkness. But the Christian is appalled by his brotherless ego which emerges as his first and most dangerous opponent in being a witness to Jesus Christ.
I dont think that Christians are appalled enough at their brotherless ego, which is running rampant these days (myself included).
Wow, that quote is powerful. Even more so on a second reading. Life is not made simpler or easier. We follow (or try to) a God-man who, beaten, bloody, and abandoned, staggering up a hill to his death. I feel like were constantly searching for a loophole on our own death to self clausewe desperately dont want to come to the same fate.
The irony is that Jesus always claimed his cross was his moment of glory. And it was and it will be for us (she wrote, to remind herself as well).
That being said, Christians talk a lot about not compromising. Ok, but Jesus made some BIG concessions for us. He put his whole life on the table. I feel like after hes done saying whaaaa? hes all oh, you dont want to put your earth-bound ideologies on the table, because that hurts? Oh boohoo, let me play the worlds smallest violin for you with my nail-scarred hands. And it wasnt like he made these concessions to his peers. We absolutely do not deserve anything we got that day.
Im not proposing any deals with the devil or compromising on what people believe is right. Im saying, lets start small first and see where we land. Lets compromise on not making assumptions and generalizations about people we dont know personally, even though weve met a lot of people in the other camp that upset us. Lets start by believing the best about people, rather than the worst, even though weve seen evidence of the worst. Lets also remember that being right, that being a Christian, that financial sacrifice doesnt mean anything if love for others isnt the foundation.
This article about Jim Daly and Focus on the Family is both encouraging and discouraging to me. The bad part first: I hope and pray that as an organization they are not making decisions based solely on financial support. But I am encouraged by their new focus on accomplishing the positive rather than detracting from what they see as negative. If the church as a whole spent as much time seeking justice for the poor and oppressed (and the hard work that comes with it, like building relationships with them) as it often does going about the easy business of pointing out wrongdoing, then I think our society would be much closer to what it should look like.
And to me, thats where the answers really lie: in relationship. In dialogue like this. It makes me wonder what goes on in the halls of the Senate, or at the congressional lunch tableare these people as uncivil to each other in private as they are on TV? I think that too often people confuse pursuing what is right with doggedly clinging to their preconceived agenda. At most, if one party gets their way, that lasts for four to eight years before its challenged again. You can compromise when it comes to lawmaking and policy and still be a person of integrity because you know that government will never get everything right or fix our deepest brokenness.
Add to that the article from The Atlantic on the end of evangelical political dominance. Which I think is a great thing. Because Christianity is so meaningless when its the religion in power. Again, see cross, Jesus, death, etc. for reference.
Scott Sauls, a friend of mine (and former pastor) wrote a great piece about the Christian response to politics. He rightly pointed out that the little church made up of Jesus disciples included Simon, a zealot, and Matthew, a tax collector. You could not be any different politically than a zealot and a tax collector.
The other day, some friends and I were chatting about the election and talk turned to conservatives and why they vote the way they do. Thinking of you (and other conservative/right-leaning friends), I found myself defending Republicans. Not because I agree. But because I know you. And those caricatures of racist (yes, there are some), hateful (yes there are some), stingy (yes, there are some), narrow-minded (yes, there are some) people are just that. Just as on the left, were not all amoral (yes, there are some), wimpy (yes, there are some), moochers (yes, there are some), relativists (yes, there are some) that were portrayed to be.
So again, lets start small. Intentionally befriend someone who doesnt share your political beliefs. Maybe even befriend people who dont share your religious worldviews. Eat with them. Talk to them. Laugh with them. Lets see what can happen.
You know, Ive heard from so many people recently (sermons, readings) about how Christianity only thrives when it is being challenged, when its in an unfriendly-to-it environment. Which makes me think about your comment regarding the boldly ignorant and controversial things some believers are saying and how comfortable they must be to say them. The controversy being for the wrong reasons and allself-motivated reasons rather than truth reasons. Maybe some cultural discomfort is exactly what Christianity needs to get moved from its megachurch, country club mentality to its Acts roots. And maybe that discomfort is being delivered in the restructuring of society as the church sees itthe growth of what were once minority points of view (gay marriage?), the redefining of the law of the land (Roe v Wade?).
Regardless, I agree with you that sharing life is the only way each side will understand each other. It forces us to be accountable for our snide comments and vitriolic Facebook posts and general frustration. I honestly think now about you before I post on Facebook, whereas I used to boldly (and self-righteously) vomit my right-side views all over my own newsfeed. I think, Will this hurt or offend Juliet? And if the answer is no, I try harder (ha! J/K). When we really begin to consider each othersincerely and from a place of respect and heartthat is when change will happen.
Its all getting so ridiculous. The icing on the Cake of Absurdity is this whole secession thing, which I know has your wig all tilted. Its such a waste of time, because we all know its as likely to happen as it is for Ben Affleck and Barbra Streisand to move back from Canada, where they moved after George W. Bush became president (wait, what? They never left? HOLD THE PHONE!). Such total silliness and deflection from the hard work of finding ways to identify with each other, to reach solutions together. And quite unbiblical, when you think about it.