A Plea for Political Civility
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.
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.