Recently, I had someone leave my small church plant—not because of heresy nor unrepentant sin—but because of politics. The person didn’t like the political opinions of some of the people in our church, so he put his political identity above his identity as our brother in Christ and disfellowshipped with us.
In the U.S., we have bought into a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is to believe there are only two possible options even though a broad range of possibilities are available. The overall faulty thinking is that you’re either conservative (and, thus, a Republican) or liberal (and, thus, a Democrat).
Beyond the obvious issue with trying to lump everyone in existence into two exclusive tribes—as well as the issue of who gets to define specific views as either “liberal” or “conservative”—it’s clear that Christians need to defy the false political dichotomy of U.S. politics because it’s (1) damaging clear biblical thinking, (2) damaging church unity, and (3) damaging the witness of the church. And if it’s doing all that, it’s dishonoring the name of Jesus, our king, which is unacceptable.
Christianity is a third option. Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God. This means Christ-followers find their identity as citizens of God’s Kingdom first and foremost—before any identity as either Democrat, Republican, or even American. Christians need to defy this false dichotomy of our day because we aren’t to fall into the same patterns and habits of the world around us. Christianity is a third way.
After all, the apostle Paul tells us,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2)
Paul also shows us that following Christ often means not being accepted according to the standards of humankind:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
In an earlier blog, I’ve already given some thoughts about this false political dichotomy everyone—including the church—is getting bamboozled into believing, but here are some additional thoughts about navigating this political minefield that we live in today:
- If you’re taking punches from both sides, you’re probably doing something right.
If you find ardent liberals try to brand you as a conservative and ardent conservatives try to brand you as a liberal, this might show you’re actually trying to follow God’s Word, rather than the world’s wisdom.
- Criticize where due. Praise where due.
When loyalty is to Christ and his Word and not to a political identity, it gives you freedom to criticize and praise where appropriate. After all, a Christian should be concerned with God’s truth, not promoting some tribal worldview defined by worldly guidelines. For instance, there were things Christians could appreciate about both President Obama and President Trump, but there were also certainly things about both presidents Christians should have been critical about.
- Freedom For Clear Thinking
When your mind isn’t cloudy with trying to jam everything into a category of “liberal” or “conservative,” you’re free to focus on the actual topic or issue at hand to figure out how to correctly think about it and, if need be, how to best solve it. When you’re not busy trying to defend the view of your tribe, it gives a lot of freedom to actually think. You also don’t get caught up in the bickering and finger-pointing about the bad behavior of either side, which is a snare that hampers meaningful discussion.
- Freedom to be Critical of my Own Party
OK, maybe you’re well-informed on the issues and the political stances of each party and you have decided to align yourself with one party over the other. Fine, but this still doesn’t mean you have to accept every stance of that party wholesale. If you’re part of that party, work to make your party more godly.
- Save It For the Dinner Table
There’s an old saying about not talking about politics or religion in polite company. I’m going to update it: Don’t talk about politics or religion over social media. All the bickering online isn’t getting you anywhere with your friends who hold different views, and these complicated topics are nearly impossible to address sufficiently in a social media format. Plus, I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but it’s much easier to come across as a jerk on social media—and many feel free to purposely act like jerks on social media. A good rule of thumb: If a person isn’t willing to find the time to sit down with you for a meal, then maybe it’s not a good use of your time to get into a political discussion with him or her.
- Seek out people who don’t fit into either tribe.
Having conversations with people who may be able to give a unique point of view will certainly help everyone open their minds to the possibilities beyond the narratives of either side. For example, I have a married couple as neighbors who both work in law enforcement and are African Americans. Having conversations with them about police brutality, racism, and gun control certainly provides me with plenty to think about. Also, I find talking to people who immigrated to the U.S. can give me a point of view that’s often outside of the box of typical American thinking.
- There’s more moderates than you think.
Sadly, it was the same as when I taught high school as it is with politics: The people making the most noise get the most attention. But it has been my experience that when you have actual conversations (not arguments) with actual people (not the characters they play on social media), people are a lot more reasonable and, thus, a lot more moderate than you think. (And, so, the ignored, annoyed moderates of this country have to start making more noise!)
8. And a closing thought from God’s Word.
Finally, let me close with some wisdom from the Proverbs to remind us all to remain humble:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
Read related GFTM articles: