Have you heard there’s an election this week?
Perhaps you already know about it. News outlets are reporting historic levels of early voter turnout including an unprecedented rise in early voter turnout. Early voters, it turns out (see what I did there) are often more left-leaning than their older counterparts. This trend has been observed in the US over the last few years by Pew, among others.
The trend left-wards has been observed even among Christian young adults. Millennials have long been known to be more politically liberal than their older counterparts (with the early returns on Gen Z evidencing rather a rather similar mindset).
And before we assume that this move left-ward is evidence of the smaller percentage of Christians that constitute its numbers, consider Pew’s comparison of older evangelical Christians with their younger counterparts:
Political polarization isn’t going anywhere. With the advent of the 24 hour news cycle, the decline of trust in the media (at least, in some cases, all but 1 source of media), and the particularly conservative Christian susceptibility to misinformation, the short-term outlook suggests that we would be wise to learn how to live faithfully as Christ-followers in this cultural moment.
Which is where an inter-generational, multi-cultural group of people radically committed to life together, consensus building, the common good, and loving disagreement (like the church is meant to be) could be an overwhelming force for good during this season.
Could it be that older Christians could wisely guide younger Christians to avoid some of the political pitfalls they have experienced throughout their years of faithful engagement to help offset the zeal of youth? What will happen if we trade that voice of experience with sharp reprimands and insults? Do we really think that’s going to change anyone’s mind?
Could it be that younger Christians can lovingly point out areas which we feel like the faith taught to us hasn’t been applied consistently? What will happen if instead of choosing the path of love, even in the face of resistance, we walk away? Do we really think anything will change for the better if we simply abandon ship?
No one perspective or generation has all truth. Only God has all truth. And He has entrusted His church with His mission. As a reminder, His mission is not to ensure the emergence of any set of “Christian” legislation, or the promotion of any one candidate, or the propagation of any philosophy outside of the Gospel.
Social action is good and Christians should engage in advocating for justice, righteousness, and equity. But there is room at the table of the church for everyone regardless of political ideology.
My fear for the church is that we have allowed our polarized moment to create fractures that will cause breaks in time if not mended. We have no business hurling insults at brothers and sisters in Christ because they disagree with our politics. We have no business advocating for principles derived from Scripture and ignoring clear Biblical admonitions on guarding our tongues, avoiding insults, and avoiding divisiveness. We have no business alienating brothers and sisters in Christ, on either end of the spectrum, for the short-term, worldly gain of propping up imperfect, bound-to-disappoint-you, candidates or parties.
There’s a better way. There is no model for it. It’s not easy. We’ll mess it up plenty along the way. But unity in diversity, love amongst differing perspectives, and commitment to one another in spite of disagreement can be hallmarks of the body of Christ.
There’s a better way. My hope for this political season is that the divisiveness, nastiness, and blatant sinfulness of our rhetoric will lead to repentance and catalyze a new way forward. May God have mercy.