I am not a conservative or a liberal – as they are portrayed by the other side. Most people aren’t. I know that good, loving people can consider the same issue, read the same Bible, pray to the same God, worship in the same pew, and come to very different conclusions. Some of the most valuable lessons about God and Christ have been taught to me by people that would consider themselves liberal and conservative. I’ve been taught about grace, and shown unconditional love by people from across the spectrum. Differing political opinions do not have to be the end of a loving relationship. If they are, then we’re all in more trouble than I thought.
The current political climate is a difficult one to manage. I have some strong feelings, and I’m sure you do to. I have come to my conclusions through prayer, Bible study, reading other sources, examining the current culture, talking to friends, listening to speeches, and a variety of other ways. I try to listen to those with whom I disagree, but like most people I probably go to my tried-and-true comfortable sources more often than not. I have changed my mind over the years. I have cast ballots that I now regret. My faith informs everything I do, including how I vote. It must also include how I engage with those with whom I disagree.
I try to focus not on the areas in which I disagree with others, but seek to strengthen the places of contact. I try to focus on those things which we can agree, and see where it goes from there. I think an important starting point is here: Acknowledge that the world is broken and in need of healing, so let’s love each other and leave room for disagreement.
I guess that is the question with which I struggle. Can we love each other and leave room for disagreement? And a second question that seems to be of particular importance to our churches. Can we disagree and still work together for the Kingdom?
My answer to these questions is “Yes, and Yes.” But it’s not easy. How do we go about loving each other in the midst of disagreement?
-Remember that all people are created in the image of God. Every person is of sacred worth, and is loved by God. Even if they are driving you nuts. Even if you think that person is a conceited, ignorant, know-it-all. That person is loved by God.
-Remember that all people are flawed. And so am I. I am not the final authority. I’m just a guy with a wordpress account.
-Consider the last time you changed your mind. Someone in one of my Bible studies brought this point up. When was the last time you changed your mind? If it has been awhile, then ask yourself why that is. I’m also guessing that you didn’t change your mind because of a well constructed 140 character tweet, or a bitingly funny picture with words on it.
-Be willing to concede that the Bible says a lot of things, and also very little. The Bible should be the primary guide to discernment for Christians. According to the United Methodist Church, “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” In other words, it is our greatest source of divine truth, but it is not the only source of truth in the world. For most modern issues that are so divisive, it has little to say directly, but much to say indirectly. I try to take it as a whole, living Word. This means Bible verse wars are probably not very productive. In depth analysis, reading, prayer, and conversation over the Scriptures can be extremely productive.
-Keep your eye on the mission. Instead of getting bogged down in particulars and pet projects, see the grander scope of what’s being done. Part of the political disconnect is that it seems like the mission has turned into winning, when the mission should be working to make our nation stronger, more stable, and safer. If we can start with a common interest, e.g., helping the poor, then a conversation can begin. What is the nature of charity? What does the Bible say about how a government should care for its people? If we start with a common value, then the particulars of how to go about that become ways to grow, learn, and expand.
-Acknowledge that there are fundamental differences sometimes, but this can be a good thing. In other words, we need each other. Liberals and Conservatives and everyone in-between needs each other. We need each other to act as checks and balances. We need conflict to generate creativity, but sometimes the conflict can rise to levels that are destructive. Media, pundits, memes, TV commercials,and tweets like caricatures. They like broad sweeping statements and biting sound bites. They love gaffes – as if Mitt Romney actually believes that corporations are people, or that Barack Obama actually believes he built your small business for you. Candidates are not sound bites. People are not caricatures. Values, beliefs, and principles cannot be wrapped into packages and labeled.
Can we disagree and still work for the Kingdom? If the answer is no, then I am deeply saddened. I pray that the answer is yes, we can work together in the midst of disagreement.
We need each other. The body of Christ is meant to be a complex, working body. There is room at the table for everyone. I may be more liberal than you. I may be more conservative than you, but I will do my best to love you. I believe together, with the Holy Spirit, we can make a difference in this broken world. I believe that together, in the midst of turmoil, political bantering, name-calling, and fear, we can bring people to know the good news of Jesus Christ. We can work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.