Friday, October 10, 2008

Politics and Radical Inclusion

I've been thinking more about politics this year than ever before, thanks in large part to being immersed in a community of such thoughtful people. This is the first election cycle here I've been more than a casual observer and participant. (Ok, I'm still a casual participant, but I'm observing much more intentionally.) And I'm trying to figure out how to hold opinions thoughtfully and strongly while holding more tightly to the people whom I love and respect, and to the character of Christ which we try to cultivate in our community.

At our fellowship time last Sunday, our friend Will led us in a discussion of politics. What do we think of politics? How does the process make us feel? How does our participation in the body of Christ affect (and effect) our political involvement? One text we discussed was Matthew 18, and how Jesus' instruction to treat those who sin against us "as Gentiles and tax collectors" is actually a call for radical inclusion (since Jesus tended to hang out with Gentiles and tax collectors). I wondered how such radical inclusion would shape the manner and content of our increasingly polarized political discourse. Can we have close friends and family who vote differently? How do we relate to someone who believes passionately about something with which we disagree? What hope is there for us to journey together towards those goals we share in common?

A friend, who's a lifelong and rabid (er, devoted) fan of the University of Georgia, said something which struck me as quite insightful. "So many people," he commented, "seem to be Democrats or Republicans the same way that I'm a Dawgs fan." It's a great analogy, startling in its clarity and evocation of an almost blind devotion to a certain allegiance. While this is entirely appropriate in the realm of sports (Go Cowboys [despite Terrell Owens]!!), it's hardly conducive to thoughtful political conversation. How do we, as participants in the kingdom of God, reduce the stridency of our discourse and genuinely seek that radical inclusion that we find in Scripture?

I have definite opinions, some of which I've posted about at Temperance Girl. And in all fairness, this post and this post I did on Palin weren't exactly moderate in nature. (Although this post about Obama and McCain had a much more conciliatory tone.) How do we dialogue meaningfully and graciously? I'm not sure. I don't have a tidy theological answer. What I do have are 2 close, close friends and several family members who will certainly make a different choice on Nov. 4th than I will make. And I'm committed to them, just as committed as to the folks with whom I largely agree. I don't hate them, they don't hate me. We love and respect each other. How do we find the courage to sit down with someone and say, "Tell me why I should care about this issue. Tell me why you are voting for this person. I may not agree, but I want to know. And I'm really listening." And how do we have the grace to answer this question, not with arrogance and hubris, but with a passion tempered by humility?

What do we do?


billy said...

Nice post Maria, definitely something that we need to be reminded about at a time when important decisions are about to be made...decisions that often seem to outweigh the command to love one another...and the stark reality that unless we love those who differ from us or don't love us we haven't yet begun to a time when people also held very strong opinions about who should be king of palestine, it is easy to see why so many people found Jesus' teaching too hard and deserted him...I wonder if they were more honest in their response than we sometimes are.....thanks for directing us back toward the right path.

Jewell Ertman said...
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jfrey said...

hey, I know who you are now! thanks for the thoughts.