There was a time in my life when I really loved talking about politics. I come from a family where my mother talked about politics constantly and still does.
But these days, I don’t enjoy politics as much as I used to. I still enjoy and I still blog about politics, but something has changed over the years, at least within me.
I think I know why. It’s that people take politics way to seriously. So seriously, that we don’t know how to be friends with those we might disagree with. The 2008 bestseller, The Big Sort goes into detail how we have become a nation that has segregated itself into ideological ghettos where we never encounter those who might have a different political outlook than others.
While the larger story of how society has sorted itself is disturbing, what’s even more troubling to me is how Christians have segregated themselves into like-minded groups. Evangelicals started first, with their flirtations with the Republican Party and in more recent years, Mainline Protestants have become more explicit in their support of Democrats.
This new segregation has made it very easy for Christians to be nasty to others. Since I’m a Republican that is a pastor in a Mainline denomination, I’ve seen how my fellow clergy, who can preach tolerance until the cows come home can say some of the worst things about Republicans.
I tend to think that it has to be the same thing only in reverse in evangelical circles. Either way, the idea is that the other side is filled with horrible people who run over dogs and cats and take candies from babies.
While all of this postering and fearmongering makes each team feel better, I wonder what its doing to the Body of Christ. Both liberal and conservative Christians think they are doin’ the Lord’s work; standing up for family values or caring for the poor. But frankly, I don’t think either side is doing a lot to further the cause of Jesus, they are just whoring themselves for their masters.
I can’t say anything about what happens in evangelical circles, but I can speak to my own tribe and I have this to say. Stop it. Just stop it. I’m tired of all the political mudslinging in the name of Christ. You see, I am one of those horrible Republicans you talk about and the fact is, some of the people in your churches are Republicans too. You have the right to share your opinions, but remember that there are others who believe in the same God you do and have very different opinions on government and society. That doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them different.
But this really has to be about more than partisan politics; it has to be about being the church- the Body of Christ. In my Disciples tradition, we place a lot of emphasis on the Table. It’s at the Lord’s Table that everyone is welcome and everyone is equal. Distinctions end when we come to God’s table. I tend to believe God isn’t asking for party affiliation when we come to have communion.
My Lutheran friends remind me that the Cross is also a great leveler. We are all sinners, all of us. We are all in need of grace and love. We are all damned by the cross, but it is also in the cross that we are saved and made whole.
So when we read or watch the latest “outrage” on Fox or MSNBC and you are ready to hit the “send” button and share your two cents on how bad the other party is, I want you to stop and think for a moment: how is this building up Christ’s body? How is it showing that we Christians are different? Do we really need to dress up our partisan leanings in God talk to make it look pretty? Can we find a way to remember the Table and Cross as much as we hold fast to Donkeys and Elephants?