Politics. This election year we see and hear political discussions all the time and everywhere around us. Many of us may complain about the number of ads on tv and the “other guy’s” candidate, but if we’re really honest, we Americans love us some politics. And that’s a good thing, because political decisions and issues are how we live out the reality of our Republic in daily life. We’re blessed to live in a country in which every citizen (mostly) can vote freely for the candidate of their choosing. Many millions of people around the world don’t share these freedoms. But sometimes we allow politics to become a source of angry or hurtful words. This is especially true in our online relationships. We feel so strongly sometimes that we allow our words to hurt others. Instead of debating our political differences, we attack the person with whom we’re engaging. What I find most disturbing is that I see fellow Christians saying or posting hurtful words about one another.
It’s easy for us to get emotional about politics because, like religion, it speaks to our fundamental beliefs, to what we hold most dear. We tend to blur the lines between “debate” and “attack” when someone disagrees with our political views or our faith. After all, if we didn’t truly care about our politics and our faith, we wouldn’t get upset if someone disagreed with our views. And it’s good for us to care; good that we feel deeply about how we view the world and our place in it. What we can’t do is to allow our emotions to override our charity. When we do that, we’ve become like an unbeliever.
To begin with, we accept that the person with whom we disagree is a fellow child of God, created in His image and loved by Him uniquely and for all eternity. Yes, even that supporter of our political foe, who stands for everything we don’t want in a President. There’s a wonderful quote by St. Josemaria Escriva to remember at times like this: “Don’t say, ‘That person gets on my nerves.’ Think, ‘That person sanctifies me.'” Ouch. What is it about that “other” person that grates on you enough to make you respond so harshly? Usually it’s because we see in them something in ourselves that we really dislike. They mirror back to us that most unlovely part of ourselves and, if we’re honest, we know it. And we can invite the Lord to heal us of that flaw.
The next thing is to truly know what it is you believe and why it is that you believe it. And this applies to both your politics and your faith. When we can clearly lay out why we support Candidate X, it makes us take a close look at our beliefs and values and why we hold them. We have to be able to think logically and to state our positions with clarity and precision. We used to teach debate in our schools and for a good reason. It’s very instructive when you must defend a position with which you disagree. Try doing that with the political candidates from that “other” party. You’ll come to see pretty quickly why it is you support your favorite man or woman. And when you discuss them, you’ll be more able to speak from a well-thought-out position and not just from your emotions.
And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must accept that it’s unlikely that any of our political arguments will change anyone’s mind. But when we allow our politics to become a hurtful attack, we DO allow it to change our hearts—and in a bad way. We are, after all, called to love and respect the dignity of every person, even those with whom we disagree. Perhaps, most of all, with these folks. Because when the election is over, we’ll all have one President and one Congress. And we have so much that we need to come together for and work together to solve. We can all pray that the Lord will guide us to choose the best possible people to lead our nation. As St. Paul instructs us to pray:
“…for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.”
—II Timothy 2:2