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Freed from Political Tribes

Independent, Part 4 of 4

Independent

No Perfect Party

Prudence & Principles for Stewarding Our Vote

Political parties have become an all-consuming identity in American culture. They are used to sort, characterize, and even vilify others. Godly men and women, committed to what God’s Word teaches about life, religious liberty, marriage and family, and human dignity, will use wisdom to make different choices regarding which candidates and policies they vote for. Understanding this will help us treat one another with kindness and be able to love one another across our differences, even as we have honest discussions about the implications of the gospel on all of our lives. To help foster constructive conversations with one another, we’ve asked four Christians with different voting patterns and principles to expound on how they makes their decisions. May it help you as you interact with fellow church members, family, friends, and neighbors this election season. 

Republican Party, Part 1 of 4
Democratic Party, Part 2 of 4
American Solidarity Party, Part 3 of 4

Civil war. National divorce. Soft secession. Our nonstop news cycle has become a tragic feedback loop fueled by pundits and politicians. One of the greatest casualties is hope.

I frequently work with reporters and elected officials and am grateful to know many who do their jobs with goodwill and integrity. They pursue the facts and conduct themselves with professionalism and honesty. I also know a few who hungrily look for attention wherever it can be found, going so far as to fabricate narratives that mislead the public. The damage that the latter group has caused to civil society warrants reproof. 

Freed from political tribes

Christians have an opportunity to bring calm and confidence to a nation that is on edge about the upcoming elections. We can, and should, take on the role of peacemaker. This is one of the reasons I am an Independent voter. It is not because I believe Republicans, Democrats, or other partisans cannot participate in political peacemaking. But I have found that my lack of allegiance to a party has freed my hands and loosed my tongue. Freed from political tribes, I don’t feel lured into an us-vs.-them narrative.

Christians have an opportunity to bring calm and confidence to a nation that is on edge about the upcoming elections.

Brooke Medina

Tony Woodlief, author of I, Citizen, contrasts the role political parties played in generations past with the street theater they have become, writing: “political parties were once a source of unity, rather than division.” 1https://www.encounterbooks.com/books/i-citizen/. Chapter 5. They were once vehicles for broad consensus among the civically engaged, a far cry from the agents of chaos they are these days.

Civic engagement outside of a partisanship

It is true that membership in the Democratic Party or Republican Party has its advantages. The parties have money, winning candidates, and exclusivity. It’s also true that not identifying as a D or an R has pushed my civic engagement outside of the confines of their conventions’ priorities and prescriptions.

When I consider the worries that plague voters victimized by hyperbolic partisanship, I think about my neighbor and friend, “Ms. Ella,” who happens to be in the same age bracket as both President Biden and former President Trump. Ms. Ella is a widow who lives alone in our neighborhood. Neither of her children live nearby. She has told me more than once that she is a proud Democrat. Ms. Ella informed me that she will not be voting for “that man” (Trump), because “he’s going to take away my Social Security and I’ll be left to eat grass.” 

“Left to eat grass.” Her biblical allusion made me think of Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar. The powerful and mighty king was reduced to the most humiliating and debasing of circumstances until he learned “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan. 4:32b, ESV). The story sends a tremble down my spine, chased by a fluttering hope that our elected officials brush up on their Old Testament fluency.

I reassured Ms. Ella that her Social Security wasn’t going anywhere (it’s nearly impossible to phase out government programs) and that she would never be reduced to eating grass, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t let that happen to her. But her anxieties replayed in my mind for days. The thing about fear is that it doesn’t have to be rational or reasonable to feel utterly paralyzing and true. And for that, we should have compassion on those who are caught in the grip of the vicious news cycle and bad-faith political actors who see their raison d’être as raising as many blood pressures and campaign contributions as possible.

C.S. Lewis—the Southern Baptist’s favorite Anglican—leveled artful criticism at the bitter partisanship he witnessed among his countrymen during WWII. He captures it masterfully in “The Screwtape Letters” where the chief demon and Wormwood try to corrupt their patient’s soul via political extremism:

“All extremes are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them fast asleep. Other ages such as the present one are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them.” 2C. S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters” (New York: NY, HarperOne), 40.

An opportunity to bring peace 

Lewis’ audience was well-acquainted with the dichotomy between the patriots and the pacifists, both sides digging their heels in, many attributing bad faith to the other. The polarization was stark across Europe. In some cases, it was existential. Hitler and Mussolini were terrorizing and slaughtering millions. Economic uncertainty was in abundant supply. The hydrogen bomb had been discovered. Neitzschian nihilism, eugenics, and social Darwinism were ascendant. 

Sometimes I wonder what he would think if he could have time traveled to our day and observed the catastrophizing and hand wringing that accompany our contemporary election discourse. 

Yes, we live in a time that is “unbalanced and prone to faction,” yet for all of the pains and challenges we face, we are still far removed from the terrors that plagued much of the world 80 years ago. Indeed, much of the peril we face is generated not by external circumstances, but by the ideologues stoking division among us; the engagement farmers and grifters who revel in political panic. 

The gift of living in this moment in history should not be lost on us. Whereas earlier generations confronted great forces that threatened to upend their societies, the chief danger we face is within our own hearts. Sometimes that’s the scarier prospect. Changing behaviors is easier than changing hearts. Yet Christ’s good news reassures us that hearts can always be won, can be reordered toward the good, true, and beautiful. Each of us can push against the divisive narratives and fear mongering peddled by opportunistic media and political ladder climbers. We can bring peace and hope to the Ms. Ellas of the world. And we don’t need the backing of the Donkey or Elephant to do it. We need the resolved gentleness of the Lamb.

Independent


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