“Faith Matters in Politics”
Because political ideas, arguments and choices are so often divisive, if not just plain uncivil, we tend to avoid political subjects and conversation in church. I recall as a child my family getting into political arguments with blood pressures rising around the Thanksgiving dinner table, my conservative uncle turning red in the face and my liberal older sister shouting about free trade and tariffs. It was exciting and educational for me, but not healthy for all. I asked my dad why our family always argued on holidays during dinner. He said: “Because we are Presbyterian, and we care about our country and the people in it.”
I’d never put that together before. Some churches are now working on it.
The United Church of Christ has come up with a program called “Our Faith, Our Vote,” in which they encourage political discussions in church, in the name of civility and respect. They make these suggestions:
- Show respect when you talk to someone who holds differing views. Worry less about whether you are winning an argument, and more about what insights you are gaining and how much respect you showed for the other person.
- Listen carefully. One of the best ways to show respect is to listen. Ask yourself: “What is this person trying to express? Why is it important to them? Where do we agree?”
- Seek understanding. Use open-ended questions that invite others to say more about why they believe what they believe. Or simply ask: “Tell me more about why that is important.”
- Share your own views about what you believe and why. Try to be honest, clear and concise, using “I” statements, such as “I think…” or “in my experience…”
- Keep your head. If the conversation heats up, pause, take a deep breath, and give yourself time to respond. Continue to act with civility.
- Realize that the Holy Spirit is present and active in the conversation, and has given each participant a part of the truth you’re seeking to discern.
I wish my family had had such rules at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Rev. Dr. Ned Edwards, Author