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A Plea for Political Civility

2015 September 18
by Mike

Recently when Jeb Bush was asked about President Obama, he replied that he thought that Barack Obama is a good man who cares deeply about America. Then he went on to explain that he thought his vision and policies were wrong.

Used with permission

Used with permission

That’s really what I want in politics. Adults at the table. People who can disagree with one another over how to accomplish good ends. People who can disagree vehemently with the policies of another person without attacking their religion (“He’s a Muslim!”), their nationality (“He’s a Kenyan!”), their political inclinations, or their character.

I know Christians who HATE George W. Bush. And I know people who HATE Bill Clinton. Ironically, the two men seem to like each other. Just like Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neal were drinking buddies and like Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy vacationed together with their families (taking a break from heated arguments with each other in the Senate—see the clip below of Hatch speaking at Kennedy’s funeral).

We live in an age of Fox News and MSNBC. An endless supply of anger and rage for fuel. I have found it helpful the last few years to refuse to watch both networks (except on rare occasions for something special).

I agree with Jeb Bush: Barack Obama seems like a good man—a loving husband, a doting father, a caring leader. That doesn’t mean I think his foreign policies are going well. And from everything I’ve seen, I think it would be enjoyable to spend an evening with George W. Bush. He, too, seems like a man with a sense of humor who loves his family and friends.

But somehow in our current political climate, it feels like you’re supposed to pick one of them to hate.

Our churches are filled with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. In largely Democratic churches (and yes, I know some!), Republicans may feel like they can’t say anything lest it seem that they don’t care about equality and justice. In largely Republican churches, Democrats may feel like they have to bottle up their thoughts and plaster fake smiles on their faces lest others accuse them of not caring about liberty and Christian values.

I once had a church leader tell me he didn’t know how you could be a Christian and a Republican. A few years later I had an elder in another church say he couldn’t fathom how you could be a Christian and a Democrat.

Can the demonizing please end? Can the character assassinations cease? Can we have sane political discourse? Can we find arenas where spirited arguments about policy and means can take place without assuming the other side hates our country?

And, while I’m at it, can we please remember that our true “citizenship” is in heaven (Philippians 1:27; 3:20) — and that our true “city charter” is the narrative of one who emptied himself, served, and died (2:6-11)? Politicians, policies, and even nations come and go through the centuries. But the in-breaking kingdom of God continues to invite us to the way of Christ.

18 Responses leave one →
  1. Ray Sibert permalink
    September 24, 2015

    Very well said, Mike! Especially the last part; God is sovereign! Ancient and recent world history has shown how God has done wonderful and amazing things regardless of specific world leaders and political systems. Vote your conscience, love others and remember our real citizenship and mission.

  2. September 24, 2015

    I’m sick of it as well. At times, I wish for a third party to rise up and be different.

  3. Don Kleppe permalink
    September 24, 2015

    I’m not surprised that your view should be so sensible and Christlike. I’ve had the same thoughts and feelings on MANY occasions as I’ve watched debates and listened to various members of my Bible class as they spout off about the evil of “the other guys”. We need to get a grip!!

  4. Bobbie Huebner permalink
    September 24, 2015

    Amen. I know an internist who had an elderly patient struggling with high blood pressure. He asked her if she watched Fox News. Upon her responding “yes” he wrote out a prescription for her to refrain.

  5. David Decker permalink
    September 24, 2015

    “Speaking the truth in love,” is also an applicable remembrance in exchanges involving politics, religion, etc. Islam is patently evil. Their teachings and practices of murder, multiple marriage partners, perpetual virgins in a carnal heaven, etc. are not of God. Yet, Mr. Obama staunchly defends Islam. He has publicly demeaned passages from the Holy Bible, while, in the same speech, exalting references from the Quran (a book of falsehood – credited to a false prophet, who was little more than a murderer and pedophile). Romans 12 reminds us to, “Abhor that which is evil.” Mr. Obama’s actions in these matters are, “evil.” Are we to overlook these things? God does not (Acts 17:31). Evil knows no exclusivity in political affiliation. Our adversary wants them/us all (1 John 5:19). “Getting a grip” necessitates many things – including rebuking those in public office who embrace sin – just as John did with Herod.

  6. Alan permalink
    September 24, 2015

    George W. Bush’s “Islam is peace” speech:

  7. September 24, 2015

    Thank you for this, Mike. Not long ago, I was the poster boy for incivility when it comes to politics (as some who read this blog know). And that’s not a good place to be. I think this all started with talk radio (specifically, Rush Limbaugh), and degenerated into what we see today. Personally, I would love to have a beer with President Obama, enjoy a baseball game with George W. Bush, build a Habitat house with Jimmy Carter, or just hang out with Bill Clinton.

  8. Doug Page permalink
    September 24, 2015

    Thank you Mike for making this plea.
    Thank you for your courage and boldness to say things like this and to call Christians back to their primary allegiance.

  9. September 24, 2015

    God created us in His own image. Though He yearns for us to love one another and exalt Christianity He was the one who “wired ” us the way we are. Personally if your family is physically threatened by an outsider it would certainly be your responsibility to protect them. For some people to think we would allow others to run amuk over them and even ourselves is just wrong both physically and emotionally. We all strive to make this a better world to toil in until Christ returns. There will always be political rhetoric and strife until Jesus returns. Children in the family have their squabbles, but at the end of the day, hopefully still love each other. People need The Lord to help us along the way to be more Christlike and that includes trying to still love one another and respecting their opinion while still perhaps having a dissent to their opinion. Whether I choose to be Republican or Democrat or other is not an issue of savation. And then God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We should try and respect that command. And, to dumb it down I think the word today is to “chill”. 🙂

  10. Joe Maple permalink
    September 24, 2015

    Thank you, Mike!

  11. Caryn Hommel permalink
    September 24, 2015

    What David Decker said.

  12. Dana Deree permalink
    September 24, 2015

    President Obama has said many times that he is a Christian. He also said America is a pluralistic society with people of many faiths.

  13. Clint Logue permalink
    September 24, 2015

    I wish you could have written this eight years ago.

  14. Michael permalink
    September 25, 2015

    Milton Friedman delivered a truly beautiful message on the importance of humility in political policy discussions.

  15. Michael permalink
    September 25, 2015

    one other great example Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsberg very rarely agree on anything in their roles on the US Supreme Court, however they are very close dear friends and travel together.

  16. Alan M permalink
    October 11, 2015

    To David Decker: Right wingers choose to pick on Obama because he doesn’t totally hate Islam. What you forget though is that Obama does NOT claim to be a Muslim. He claims to be a Christian. There is nothing wrong with respecting others’ beliefs. Furthermore, every politician supports something that is patently evil. Bush went to war; war is evil. Clinton had an affair; affairs are evil. No politician is perfect, and Obama is just like the rest of them.

  17. Ken Dunham permalink
    December 18, 2015

    Our current political climate is filled with hate mongering. Based upon recent political polls, it appears the candidates in at least one major party gain ground if they can define their hate and direct it toward a specific group of people. The more hate that is spewed on television by the candidates appears to be rewarded by more financial support from their base of voters. Mike, your article was directly on point, and I wish more people would wake up to the fallacy that hate is a good human trait.

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