By Corbin Croy
Being a Christian in today’s society can be tough. There are many forces trying to gain your allegiance and many competing causes to support. The conservatives want you to defend the lives of the unborn, and the liberals want you to defend the lives of women and the poor. There are many good causes to support as a Christian, but in our political machine dividing lines are drawn that tell you which causes should be supported and which are “agendas” designed by the other side to manipulate you.
It is quite possible that we are reaching a new dark age, not because of a scarcity of information, but because information is so prominent and excessive that intellectual hubris causes us to cling to tribalism all over again. Fake news is the new superstition, and our own echo chambers have become the new tyrannical power.
The goal in political discourse is no longer to persuade our opponents to join our side, but rather to talk from our own platform to ensure our constituents remain with us. For example, if a liberal brings up the right a woman has over her own body, a conservative does not engage that issue to understand it and develop an argument against it. The conservative’s response is to talk about child murder and the Holocaust. Likewise, when a conservative brings up property rights, a liberal does not attempt to give credit to economic theory or virtue ethics, but dives headlong into wealth inequality and privilege guilt.
No one cares anymore about the art of persuasion. Everyone has contented themselves with the belief that the other side is completely wrong and will never change. The job now is to keep exposing their errors so the new recruits will not be bullied or duped into siding with the enemy.
This system will kill your spirit. The spiritual life is grounded on the principle that humanity is worth saving. The “enemy” can become your friend. Your old life can be reborn into a new life. People can change. In Christianity, this is called the gospel. Its theological designation is “redemption.” If your political convictions lead you to believe that your rivals are unredeemable, then you have lost your spiritual integrity.
Here are some key points to consider when you engage in politics to help you keep your spiritual integrity:
1. Avoid being a hypocrisy watchdog.
Politics is an immensely complicated procedure that often requires people to shift positions and allegiances in order to accomplish a higher goal; compromises have to be made so that some form of your ideal world is allowed to exist. It would be naïve to think that because a political opponent appears to have changed course on an issue, they are a hypocrite. Much of the material I see online is devoted to this watchdog behavior of monitoring all our political rivals to make sure they are keeping in line with things done in the past.
Liberals do this all the time by exposing Trump’s old tweets with his new ones. Nothing is gained by this, and only wastes time in what needs to be a political process where changing positions is expected. Being a hypocrisy watchdog only perpetuates the idea that the other side is irredeemable and operates without any sense of consistency, when in fact, changing our position in order to accomplish a higher goal is the earmark of how politics is supposed to function.
2. Don’t shame the debate process.
Please, do yourself a favor and accept the possibility that you could be wrong about something. Debate it, argue for it and try to persuade others to your cause.
Too many people share their ideas and, when challenged, say they won’t debate it. Well, I hate to be a sour pickle about this, but the whole point of having and sharing ideas is to debate them. You could be wrong. I could be wrong. We could both be wrong, but nothing can ever come from it if we do not engage in debate to try to figure it all out together.
Saying that you won’t debate something is like saying that you do not want to participate in the process of change and redemption. Other people are worth the effort and personal exhaustion that can go into debate and persuasion. And yes, it is exhausting, but as Christians that should be the last excuse to enter our minds when it comes to holding onto our spiritual integrity.
3. Don’t weaponize sensitivity.
A lot of people claim to be offended by something, and some are offended that others are offended, and so on. It is perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of political discourse that rational discussion must now be regulated by something called political correctness. And while I would personally love to be done with all the over-sensitivity when it comes to discussing important matters, it must be recognized that there really is a need to be aware of how others will react emotionally to what is said. There really is a need to be sensitive; it is not all characterized by a spoiled temper tantrum.
As a parent, I have seen my kids play every angle when they detect an opportunity to gain an advantage over their siblings. If one kid gets special treatment because of an upset belly, lo and behold, at mealtime suddenly every child will claim a stomach ailment. But it goes even further than that, because now each child is a stomach monitor intent on exposing their siblings’ fake claims and ensuring that they get the sympathy they deserve. The point is that sensitivity can all too quickly turn into selfishness.
I remember how, when Trump was early in his campaign, many people thought it was refreshing to have a politician who spoke his mind, and of course this meant that Trump was not afraid of offending anyone. In fact, some have theorized that this is one of the biggest reasons Trump became such an icon. It has always saddened me to think that this is could be true, because it is really such a duplicitous motive for someone to rise to power.
The truth is that looking to someone who can “speak their mind” is simply a cover for our own agenda to gain power through the same kind of sensitivity manipulation that I observe in my children. By engaging in sensitivity policing and similar squabbles, we end up reducing an immensely important part of our human experience, as well as our spiritual connection with other people. The fact is that we are sensitive people and we ought to speak to each other with basic human decency in order to maintain a civil environment. People have forgotten that the reason we need political correctness is that civics is more important than politics.
Not all sensitivities are manifestations of selfishness, and a person who doesn’t care about offending others isn’t someone who can put an end to offense, he will simply multiply it. Being sensitive to our opponents is a virtue of redemption because it validates the basic humanity that exists in all of us and testifies to the gospel truth that anyone can be saved.
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