“How are you?”
In most places, we’re conditioned to give a short, non-answer to this question.
“How are you?” Fine. Great.
We love that in most churches these answers don’t get it done. “Tell me more” is implied.
“How are you? Fine. Great.
And it took us thirty-seven minutes to get in the car this morning because someone melted down about her shoes, and I finally said, forget the shoes! We’ll put them on when we get there. And I grabbed two different shoes, so now my precious toddler has on one hot pink loafer and one glittered boot.
When we operate from that place of “tell me more,” everyone breathes easier. We find relief and refuge in each other’s vulnerabilities. We can laugh together about demanding toddlers and cry together about dementia and hold each other up during this month at work when everyone is being unreasonable.
“Tell me more” brings our church communities closer together . It is how we say to one another, “you are loved and beloved, by Jesus and by us.” It reminds us that we are not alone. But, there’s one arena in which many church communities studiously avoid this invitation: politics.
In many of our churches, we don’t discuss the news. We scold preachers for “getting political.” We pray in generalities — world peace, comfort for the poor — and avoid the specific suffering showing up in this week’s headlines for fear of offending someone.
In other churches, we don’t discuss the news because we treat particular political positions as extensions of our spiritual doctrine. There is one political way, we are told, and so there is nothing to discuss. There is simply the application of Scripture to the ballot.
We can do better. “Tell me more” is crucial to discerning how we participate politically. When all the noise of cable news and professional punditry falls away, politics is simply an exercise in how we want to live together in community. What agreements do we want to make with one another? What principles do we want to govern our interactions? To what authorities will we submit in order to promote common good? Surely, there is room for discussion in our churches around these questions.
If we want to move out of partisan conflict and into politics driven by wholeness, our churches must lead. We should not avoid some of the hardest and most consequential questions of our age in our communities of faith. We should struggle with the tension between that which is dictated by our faith and that which makes for good governance of all people.
Our communities of faith should be perfect laboratories to test our ideas and determine our priorities because within our churches, we should be practicing grace consistently and patiently. Politics is suffering from a grace deficiency. Right now, when we talk with people on “the other side,” we are not saying “you are loved and beloved by Jesus and by me.” We are saying, “you are the enemy.”
In our churches, we can and should call ourselves back to that sense that we all belong together in Christ, and from there, we can tell each more about what we believe that calls us to in our political participation.
We don’t have to draft legislation in Sunday School or leave worship prepared to vote as a bloc. But we can enhance our communities of faith and our country by remembering that we are one body, and within that body there can be differences. We can enhance our communities of faith and our country by practicing hearing about those differences with openness and curiosity and grace.
“Tell me more” about your politics, and I will love you, and Jesus will love you.
Original written for FaithGateway by Sarah Stewart Holland, author of I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening).
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Politics is a hotbed of strife these days. It doesn’t matter what position you hold, or who you voted for, or who you wish was on the Supreme Court bench, speaking your mind even with grace and even in a Christian environment can get you shot down… and fast. What would happen if we started asking with real openness “Tell me more”? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you!