Approaching a presidential election, my Facebook feed is filled with political commentary, memes, and arguments. I thought it might be fun to do a few short conversations about some political dynamics.

Struggle seeing the words “fun,” “conversation” and “politics” together?

I’m the person at your dinner party that loves talking about politics. But I also completely understand the person at your dinner party that can’t stand people like me. I used to avoid any hint of a political conversation. The following are just a few of the reasons why:

The language intimidates me. I couldn’t, and often still can’t, keep up with the articles, terms, who said what, policies … it’s just so much and not an area I feel educated in.

If feels pointless. Most people already have their mind made up, and when people are dogmatic in their stance, it just inflames things rather than generates anything productive.

Nothing seems to change anyway. “All politicians are corrupt,” and similar sentiments leave me feeling like dialogue is pointless.

It can be so overwhelming. It’s easier to either check out of engaging in conversations around politics, or it’s easier to parrot a popular side and dig in despite possible ignorance.

Still, at some point down these political roads, I will end up complaining, and certainly will be impacted by the outcomes, so I’m fighting to stay engaged.

(Side Note: local elections are super important and have a dramatic impact on daily things such as development, education, taxes, infrastructure, local jobs … the trickle down from the White House takes a little longer, but that tends to the feistier of political seasons. Stay engaged locally too.)

I think reflecting on Jesus might give us some insight into a few of the political tensions we experience. But before we look at a few things through the lens of the Gospels, I want to give you a gift:

You have permission to think differently.

That may be a no brainier for you, but for lots of people, myself included, that reminder has value. Think about how often many of us refrain from sharing our ideas, our questions, or stating our stance. Certain topics are terrifying. How do you think the “silent majority” evolved? People disengage when the open engagement produces the risk of lost relationships or respect. It’s just too tense.

A friend and I were talking about the reopening of schools and concerns with COVID. I could hear hesitancy in her voice as she shared. It was as if each statement had to be shaped as a lite idea with an apologetic tone. (It’s the same tone I use when I’m worried about coming across as a cultural bully.) I didn’t want her to feel like she had to agree with me, or to repeatedly rationalize her opinion. I wanted her to feel comfortable thinking differently.

There is this concept in Romans 14:

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

This is in the center of a chapter where Paul is addressing disagreements about dietary laws and Sabbath observance. And while those might not be today’s media hype, they were HUGE for Paul’s audience. It was bigger than meat and veggies. It had deeper consequences than ink on a calendar. The possibility of those changes impacted hundreds of years of valuable ideas and traditions.

I served at a church where Romans 14 guided their vision and purpose. They aim to create a space where people with differing beliefs can explore the claims of Christ at their own pace, trying to show that unity does not mean uniformity, that respect and difference can go together.

God values diversity, just look around. And while we love that idea when it comes to snowflakes and dog breeds, we generally allow very little space for diverse beliefs or opinions.

God designs us with unique passions. Sometimes those passions are used to teach us, refine us. Other times they fuel us, ignite change, or become a resource to our community. Respectfully and fully listening to a different view does not require you to morph your own ideals. In fact, you might find them sharpened. As we press on toward November 3rd, let’s start our conversations asking ourselves:

  • Have I checked-out?
  • Do I share my own ideas?
  • Do people feel comfortable sharing their ideas with me?
  • Do I truly allow space for different opinions?
You have permission to think differently.

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