I am deeply distressed by the way national elections divide us as Christians. These political debates have continued to pour rhetorical and personal poison into the diet of the church for decades, especially since 2000. We are already divided from one another by a myriad of common problems; social, political, theological, moral and spiritual. Then every four years we go through this election process in which Christians take sides, bad mouth the views of each other in person or on the social media. They mock candidates and political parties with fierce cynicism on a daily basis. We then try to act like all of this makes very little difference to our unity as the children of the Sovereign King who clearly prayed for our oneness and communion together his people (John 17).

Mainline Christians, and more progressive Catholics, often act like Republicans are heartless, uncaring Christians with no brain and no social conscience at all. More conservative evangelical Christians, and their conservative Catholic counterparts, act like Democrats are involved in some kind of evil compromise with the devil because they are not pro-life or support a wrong view of marriage. Plus, the Democrats are driving us toward the abyss. (Funny, but four years ago George W. Bush had driven us to the abyss according to the opposite narrative!) Both sides make some good, and a lot of bad, points. The debate is important but this is NOT the real point. The real point is that our common life in Christ is rooted in the divine nature and together we are the people of God regardless of whether we are red or blue. When we “bite and devour” each other over political views we do great harm to one another, often in ways that we cannot talk about openly so we just hold this hurt inside ourselves. The unity of the whole church is impacted and the mission of Christ once again suffers great harm.

Please do not misunderstand my major point. I welcome honest and serious dialogue among Christians about the great issues that matter to national public policy. I plan to vote and I have my views about many of the issues before us right now. (My views are more complex than the simple back and white ones I see in so many deeply partisan debates. Some Christians think I lost my way, if not at least my nerve. Proof of this was the response to my attempt to positively tell the story of both Obama and Romney on this blog site a few weeks ago, without any tip of the hand that favored one versus the other.)

My point is that I do not believe this political season is license for snarky, mean-spirited diatribes and cutting innuendoes that debase our brothers and sisters. Look, no matter how you see this upcoming election there are Christians who are as faithful and committed to Jesus as you are who do not agree with your political views. They might even be as strong in their views as you are in your own. But when the dust settles, and it will settle, the idea behind e pluribus unum (“out of many one”) should apply to the church even more than to our divided nation. There is great diversity in the body of Christ. But that diversity is the very context in which we should strive together to build and protect our God-given unity. After all, Jesus did not pray for our political parties but he did pray for our relational unity.

I have worshiped in local congregations where I have seen conservative Republicanism become the “unofficial” view of the leaders and the majority of the congregants. Check out the bumper stickers and read the Facebook posts of members in such churches. Some of my best friends in this ecclesial context tell me that they will not discuss politics with their church friends because the lack of civility is so great it is not worth the effort to even engage in conversation about an election. In 2008 they quietly voted for Barack Obama and told no one in their Christian circle in general. I only know who they voted for because I have a friendship, that involves deep trust, with people on both sides of this political divide and such people talk to me. I have also worshipped in more progressive mainline settings. Here a political conservative (or even a person of more moderate persuasion like myself) needs to keep their mouth shut about their political views for the exact same reason. To reveal that you do not believe the progressive agenda about social justice, and their distinct view of the proper role of the state in solving a myriad of social problems, will land you in hot water with these kinds of folks. So you keep your mouth shut and lay low waiting for November 6 to come and go as soon as possible. Reading the social media on both sides is actually pretty depressing. I have stopped reading some friends who post their comments on Facebook for just this reason. (I have in mind friends who are both left and right. I am a equal opportunity non-reader of deeply partisan and cynical views!)

This has all caused me to wonder about the night of November 6. What could make this evening a different experience for Christians across America? I have a serious suggestion. Why not invite the church to gather in corporate prayer for the nation, listen to several readings from Holy Scripture and then receive the Lord’s Supper together as one people? A group of Mennonites gave me this idea via a recent post I read. An Election Day communion service! What a fantastic reminder of who we are and what really matters to us in terms of our identity and the remembrance of both our past and our future. We are God’s people first. I need to remind myself of this every day for the next two months. How about you?

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  1. Mark Schloneger September 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks, John, for your reflections here. You describe very well how partisan politics harms the body of believers. We’ve shared your post on Facebook, and very much appreciate your support. Mark

  2. Kurt Klippert September 5, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Well said my friend as I reflected on your thoughts it occurs to me that the Body and Blood of our once slain King and Lamb of God are served and promised to us as a surety of our position in Him are the very opposite of the categorical dialogue that separates and defines us.Those who follow a position of choice in the name of peace, peace miss the altar of Molech that our eternal Father calls detestable. As our nation seeks to throw off the weights that so easily encumber us on our pursuit of a life of pleasure not bothered by the cares of children who would always demand our time and money. With equal bovine devotion some choose to worship with the money changers at the hall of The Free Market is Gods Gift to America. We look the other way as the scales of insurance and to big to fail are operated by shrewd purveyors who tilt them in their favor and call this good. Also a stench in the nostrils of our Father who does not want our offerings gained from the clever sales of assets seized from widows and orphans. All we like sheep are led astray we have turned everyone to his own way and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. John a meal served That sustains and reminds us of who we are, why we’re here, how we got here and where we are going and how we will get there is more than a good idea in this election season. It is the only thing we should do to remind ourselves who is Who as we watch Him raise up kings and set them down

  3. Patrick Duncan September 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

    In all things, we must be charitable and it is true that both sides err in this in varying degrees. That said, the paradigms each side are real and are informed by one’s apprehension – or misapprehension! – of the truth. What if one particular view is ultimately vindicated? If so, then those who pretend as if there is no real or right answers will have to apologize for trying to mute the side that was vindicated. So if we really believe our view is the view that will be vindicated, let us champion it publicly yet graciously.

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