Last week I made the rookie mistake of sharing a political post on my Facebook page, and wouldn’t you know it, someone disagreed and replied.
I have many friends and family members (tons of them, many supporters, they love me, love me more than anybody) who are done with the election. I think they were done with the election before it even started. They’d like to get back to videos of cats and inspirational quotes. They don’t want to hear another word or see another post or listen to another sound bite or watch another ad about their own candidate or their candidate’s opponent.
Same here. I don’t like politics. I don’t like to debate or argue. I don’t like the feeling of my blood pressure rising or the way my body starts to tremble when I feel attacked or contradicted or bullied. But this election season I haven’t been able to stop myself from pushing out political posts and engaging in conversations on social media.
This election is different. I think our country started out rather united around one issue: the two- party, he said-she said, do-nothing system needed to change. The vast majority of people were ready for something new, something different. One candidate emerged as more of the same Washington politics, and two candidates emerged as “something different.”
But instead of something different running outside of the existing system, they stepped up to bat in the two ruling political parties. When it came down to choosing which candidate would represent them, the people of the parties did not choose the candidates they felt were best suited for the job. They chose the candidates they thought would have the best chance to defeat their opponents.
At least that’s the way it looks to me. I am a thirty-four-year-old Christian wife and mother of three. I was raised in the rural Midwest, live in a suburban Ohio township, and commute to a university campus in Cleveland where I work with people from all over the world. I encounter people who stand resolute on every tick of the political spectrum, and I try to be a good listener.
I’m not a political analyst nor did I major in political science, so like most people I watch the election coverage and wonder how it’s possible these two people have not moved beyond the backyard sandbox, like the majority of adults. I keep wondering how any follower of Christ could possibly accept or overlook the behavior of Donald Trump, while family members and friends I know plan to vote for him because he isn’t her.
Love’s greatest opponent is not hate. It’s fear.
That feeling I get when I share my thoughts and open the window to receive criticism or opposition is fear. I am afraid someone is going to get abusive with their language, that someone will turn a conversation about politics into a personal attack, that no one is listening, that everyone is listening.
But as a thirty-four-year-old Christian wife and mother who somehow mixes with both conservatives and liberals, religious and non-religious, political and apolitical, I find my role is to speak up. What I am not afraid of is being persuaded, of discovering something new or another way of looking at things, or of a deeper and broader and higher and wider reality, a greater truth.
Fear is paralyzing, but Jesus insists that perfect love casts out fear, and I love this world. I love people. I believe God really does call all people his children—all people, not just those who look like me and talk like me and follow my brand of Christianity. All people.
I also believe that, as a bearer of light, I ought to use the intellect God gave me. Wisdom is not in the party line. Wisdom is not in the thirty-second sound bite or ninety-minute debate. These have become weapons to inspire fanaticism and mob-mentality, whatever it takes to keep us pinned to the display board of our allegiance to one political party.
As a lover of light and pursuer of truth, I believe it’s necessary to engage in dialogue because I live in a complicated world with complicated issues that cannot be reduced to sound bites or single-issue votes. Dialogue is listening and thinking and then responding, then listening again and thinking again and responding again. I have to model this as a thoughtful, faithful, doubting-Thomas believer.
When I look at Jesus for the example of how to behave in such scenarios, I find honest, vulnerable conversation, questions asked and defensive strategies met with truth, not personal attack. The person who encounters Jesus never walks away unchanged. If I am to be a little Christ, shouldn’t an encounter with me do the same? Shouldn’t I model thoughtful reflection, at least, instead of defensiveness?
The people I find to be the most defensive, arrogant, and hateful on social media lately are the Christians who are looking for any way to excuse the behavior of Donald Trump to avoid what they fear. Trump sees this and knows this and uses this to lock people into his “I am the only way” position.
Except God provided an alternative way. Yes, we’re deep in this mess now, too late for better presidential options for the next four years. But it isn’t too late to pry myself out of the tight fist of fear. It isn’t too late to seek truth and wisdom and discernment. It isn’t too late to remember the words and actions of Jesus: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It’s only four years. If I can’t stand the two candidates who represent the majority parties breaking the system, I can vote third party. What do I have to fear but fear itself? I can be the bright shining city on a hill and vote for the candidate I feel most closely aligns with my views. Do I know what it is I actually believe and am I willing to have those beliefs questioned? Am I willing to grow beyond my beliefs, willing to see that God’s love is wider and higher and broader and deeper than what I will ever be able to conceive of? If so, maybe my perspective of love has room to grow too.
In a world of sound bites and personal attacks and playground bullies and liars, it takes some work to find truth. But the Bible says people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. As a Christ follower, lover of light and pursuer of truth, I vow to resist fear, to be still, and to figure out what it is I know and what it is I don’t. To open my heart and mind to possibility, to new knowledge and new truth, all guided by the greatest of these: love.