Ed~ This is the second part of a two-part series by Liberty Nation’s Jeff Charles. You can read the first part here.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece in the Huffington Post entitled “A Defense Of White Conservative Christians.” It was a response to an asinine article written by progressive Pastor John Pavlovitz. To their credit, The Huffington Post actually allowed it to be published!
Yes, I was shocked too.
The piece wasn’t an attack against leftists as much as it was a defense against the unfair smears that people were making against those who intended to vote for President Trump. But the overall message was that we shouldn’t demonize one another just because we disagree on the issues. But when I shared the piece on social media, the response I got was powerful.
One of my church group leaders from when I was in a high school sent me a private message complimenting the article, but it was the scripture he quoted that got my attention: Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Blessed are the peacemakers.
I’d heard that verse a million times, but it never hit me the way it did when he said it — because that’s what I was trying to do — advocate for peaceful disagreement. It was then that I made a rule for myself that prohibits me from making personal attacks against those with whom I disagree — no matter how much I may dislike some of them.
No, I’m not telling you which ones I dislike, so don’t ask!
This is part II of a series that discusses how Christians should interact in political conversations with those who are on the other side of the aisle.
You’re Fighting Bad Ideas, Not Bad People
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
I discussed this in part in the last part of this series, but I think it bears repeating. The key to engaging in political discourse as a Christian is understanding that we are all flawed, but most people are trying to find the truth. As I stated previously, most of the people who buy into leftist ideas are not evil people — they just believe bad ideas.
When Jesus walked the earth, He encountered flawed people who were looking for the truth. Many accepted the truth He gave, and many rejected it. But he showed mercy and kindness to both.
While he was in Jerusalem, He was confronted by the Pharisees with a woman caught in adultery, he could have urged them to stone her, or he could have told them to show mercy. But he took this as an opportunity to remind these people that nobody is perfect. Instead of just saying “let her go,” He challenged them, saying “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7).”
We should have the same approach. We must be aggressive in our attacks against evil ideas, but we should not target those who are deceived by them. Jesus was undoubtedly disgusted by the woman’s sin, as the judgmental attitude of the Pharisees also repulsed him. But he attacked the correct target: the sin. As a matter of fact, the only time Jesus made personal attacks was when he was addressing the religious leadership. He never spoke condemning words to those who did not understand the word of God.
Don’t Bother With People Who Just Want To Fight
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Depending on the type of person you are, this principle will either be easy or incredibly hard to resist. Let’s be real: some people just want to fight. They don’t care what the issue is; they just want to argue. If you’re active on social media, or as a commenter on political sites such as this one, you have undoubtedly seen these people. They are the trolls who make incendiary comments for the sole purpose of making people angry. But these folks don’t just exist online — they can also be present in your everyday life.
It’s important to represent yourself, and your faith appropriately, but in some cases, it doesn’t make sense to engage with individuals who continually exhibit the type of behavior you want to avoid. Proverbs 22:24 says “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.”
If the other person is just intent on launching personal insults, intentionally misrepresenting your statements, or just being a jerk, it might be a good idea to disengage. Not only do you not want to engage with a “hot-tempered person,” you also don’t want to become one. These aren’t people you can win over — they just want to make you angry. Don’t fall into that trap.
Having reasonable conversations with contrarians is usually a fool’s errand — you will get nowhere because their whole intent is to disagree with whatever you say. You want to spend your energy on people who are open to hearing ideas that conflict with their own. Believe it or not, these people do exist. Indeed, I believe most people want to have rational conversations about these issues, but our tense political climate is making it more difficult.
Summing It All Up
I can’t say I have been perfect in my attitudes towards people on the left — especially the ones who know they’re promoting deceitful ideas — but so far, I think I have managed to write pieces that ridicule, disprove, and repudiate their flawed messages without going after them personally. It isn’t easy, but I think it’s the most effective way to change the minds of people who are willing to be persuaded.
These principles are relevant even if you are not a Christian because they are more productive than engaging in the nasty behavior we are seeing in our political discourse today. Yes, it might look cool to pull off one-liners that make your political opponent look stupid — but in the end, you will have convinced nobody. It’s already hard enough to influence people. Let’s not make it harder by resorting to the same tactics that cost the Democrats the 2016 election.