I’m heading down the stretch with my class this semester as I read my ninth and final book, write my last weekly paper, and prepare for my final paper. That’s why I’m a little slow in responding to the most recent submission. My apologies for that.
The most recent submission comes from Fabio. He wrote: “Let’s talk about politics: it’s a common refrain that Trump won the presidency due to the enormous number of people who felt left behind, disrespected, talked down to. Do you think that’s also the reason so many evangelicals voted for him? After all evangelicals do feel, not only disrespected, but outright persecuted; our society is leaving them behind on a variety of issues: abortion, LGBT, pluralism, etc. No wonder they wanted to shake things up.”
I believe the refrain you mentioned is correct. Many Evangelicals felt ignored and ostracized over the past several years. They were hungry for an outsider that took their interests and perspectives seriously. That’s why many voted for Mr. Trump.
Your observation raised a question for me when it comes to facing this situation: what can our Christian faith teach us in this situation moving forward?
Here’s what I’ve thought in response to that question.
One of the lessons that Jesus offers me is to stay in dialogue and relationship with those who see things differently than I do. Not only was Jesus willing to be in dialogue with those who were different than he – following things like healings or teaching experiences. Jesus went one step further. He left safe spaces behind and went into places that were considered “their turf”.
I think Jesus did those things because he knew that if healing and wholeness were ever going to be achieved – in ways that were about so much more than just physical healings – that the work would have to be done in the context of relationships.
That’s something that we have lost today in both our political and social contexts. We have become so focused in the political context of rounding up enough votes so that “our side” can “win” – that we no longer seek out relationships with those who are different. Our goal is to simply gain power and then pay back those on the other side.
Same thing goes in our social settings. We “friend” those on Facebook, for instance, who think like us. We spend our free time with those who share our opinions and our values.
If we are not careful, our lives can become bubbles that shield us from those who are different than ourselves.
So in this freakishly mean-spirited and polarized time, how can we embrace Jesus’ model? How can we live in relationship with those who are different: even in the political arena?
I’m sure there are a ton of different ways people might respond. Let me share how I do that.
Whenever people engage me on a political topic, I try to make the topic as personal as possible by sharing the personal effect of the issue.
Today, for instance, we got news that the US House of Representatives is moving forward with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Instead of playing into a feeling of anger (which, believe me, is there), I have instead been talking with friends of all stripes about how sad I am.
I share with them that one of the most important aspects of the Affordable Care Act was its mandate that health insurers cover individuals with pre-existing conditions. I then talk about the experiences I had growing up with loved ones who found it nearly impossible to get health coverage because of an existing health condition like diabetes or HIV. I then say I’m really sad about the possibility of repealing the pre-existing clause because it will mean some of my loved ones – and the loved ones of millions of others – will suffer and die much sooner if they lose their health insurance.
When I talk in this way, it changes the nature of the conversation. It moves it away from being an angry, confrontational exchange toward a more respectful and compassionate conversation.
Of course, using a technique like personal sharing doesn’t always work (i.e. change the other person’s mind). That was even true in Jesus’ case.
What such an approach does, however, is restore relationship. It allows us to claim expressions of healing and wholeness that transcend legislative agenda or partisan rhetoric. And when individuals feel heard and cared for, the chance for the kind of backlash you were talking about Fabio in your comment diminishes greatly.
So what about you? What does Fabio’s comments raise for you?