I wish we could have more civil conversations about politics. I'm a moderate. I don't respond well to people bellowing the party line--of either party--without also expressing a willingness to listen to viewpoints other than their own, and reason a bit about how faith impacts their view of politics.
I have a conviction that dealing with the intersection of faith and politics requires conversation. A willingness to share your thoughts, sure, but also a willingness to listen to what other people have to say. You would think that social media would be a great venue for this then wouldn't you? I think it's safe to say that social media is shifting the way political discourse happens. If you spend much time at all on social media sites you'll know what I mean. In fact, I'll probably share this post with friends and followers via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, hoping to encourage more discussion. That said, I'm not entirely sure social media is the best way to have this kind of "conversation." Which, I recognize, makes this post a little ironic...
The trouble is, it's hard to be reasonable in the realm of social media. Most of the time, it's soundbites--you only get 140 characters on Twitter, right?--or links or images. It's pretty easy to spread things quickly and with low demand on your thinking. Which, I think, means we tend to shoot things out there that simply affirm our thinking, rather than open us up to conversation. (And I recognize that I have been guilty of this in the past too, lest you think I feel I'm above the fray--I'm not.)
Most of the political stuff I see on social media sites isn't really about having a conversation. Most of it is more aimed at either:
a) affirming what you already believe, or
b) trying to pick a fight with someone who thinks differently.
I think this is pretty insidious behavior for Christians. Most of my friends on social media sites are fellow believers, and I'm increasingly disappointed by the behavior of some--not all--who seem to be seeking division, rather than unity. I worry that disagreement about politics might drive a wedge between believers. I worry that we're judgmental of each other and harsh with each other. Too much of what I'm seeing online is divisive rather than unifying.
But there are exceptions.
Last week, my friend Jane posted this image on Facebook. I shared it:
I shared it, because on the day I saw this, I felt it was necessary. Many of my social media friends were lamenting one politician's views or another's, or filibustering about healthcare or taxes or a dozen other issues of the day--and usually in ways that alienated others, rather than bringing people together. It must have struck a chord with other people too, because 47 more people downstream from me have shared this image since then.
On the same day I shared the above image, my friend Ron posted this thought:
There is a false notion that speaking up for the unborn is a Republican issue. Or speaking up for the poor is a Democrat issue. Or marriage is a Republican issue and caring for the sick is a Democrat issue. First and foremost, they are gospel issues. And no political party has a corner on the gospel.
This too rings true for me, and put into words the feeling in my heart. I think people are quick to paint their personal political beliefs with a patina of religiosity--and this isn't just a Republican issue, lest my Republican friends get huffy too quickly. I think Christians on both the right and the left need to examine their political beliefs in the light of the Gospel.
Republican ≠ Christian.
Democrat ≠ Christian.
Faithfully following Jesus = Christian.
This is why I was greatly encouraged when my friend Nick shared the following quote from John Wesley on Facebook yesterday:
This is the heart of the issue for me.
In the past few weeks of politicking, with so many of my social-media-using friends posting images or links or rhetoric in favor of one candidate or against another, these three stood out as examples of:
1. Recognizing who is really in control,
2. Seeking middle ground and striving to be peacemakers, and
3. Working out our faith with fear and trembling--even in the realm of politics.
I'm a moderate, after all. I'm looking for common ground.