I scrolled through my contacts on my phone and was caught in a brief painful moment of guilt. Friends and family members, listed dutifully in alphabetic order, are like a list of people lost to the sea, their names nearly forgotten. “What’s it been? 4 months? 6 months? A year?”
I start calling them, easy as pushing a single button. Rob from High School. Amy from the writer’s group. My sister, Kathi. We laugh and talk about the changes to our lives, the march of time, and acknowledging the awkwardness of disconnectedness. We all blame it on the crazy times in which we live.
And then it hits me. 2020 is the year that is taking away my friends.
COVID isn’t helping, and we’ll talk about that in another column, but today we’ll talk about politics and the toll the current environment is taking on our personal relationships.
We are losing our friends to politics
Politics used to be a reserved topic, never discussed in public and certainly not among family or friends. It was considered rude to bring up. I spent much of my adultl life not knowing how a person voted, leaving that question hanging in air only to disappear on the wind. And I was fine with that.
Now, everyone wears their affiliation like a bumper sticker of a proud honor student, certain the whole world needs to know. The term, “Virtue signaling” is a new definition of this condition, as we take up certain signage or language or arguments to send a “signal” that our activities are virtuous and appealing to segment of the population. A yard sign that says, “Blue lives matter” or “Black lives matter” isn’t really pushed in the front yard dirt to do anything except to send a visible signal to your neighbors, the people who walk or drive by, that you are “on their team.”
We do the same thing on social media, using a Hashtag or a symbol to tell our friends that we stand on one side or another. Meanwhile, we alienate those who don’t have the same passion, silently judging them. This sewer that is Facebook and Twitter is the real dividing line it seems. I have seen actual posts from people who screen their list of “friends,” looking for affiliations or statements and then removing them if they don’t align politically.
Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash
What my friends say
I posed this question to my own Facebook page, asking,
“How has the current political climate affected your friendships?”
One good friend answered like this. “I’ve lost several. I’m an Independent voter…People don’t seem to care what the truth is. It’s just a depressing situation; this hatred. I mostly blame the media.”
Another says, “It’s difficult to have a close relationship on or off FB with siblings who are diametrically opposed to my beliefs. I’ve never been political until recently. I no longer can remain silent. Could soon lose more friends.”
Joan says it like this. “The Political climate had overshadowed everything else. My Christian heart breaks when people put opinions above people. (It’s terrible) when friends turn their backs on each other because of politics.
The word “evil” is being thrown around plenty today, without any real definition. I guess it’s possible that both candidates are truly evil, but for the most part we are disagreeing about policies and personalities. We should be careful about using this word and even more cautious about using a broad brush to paint those who support individual candidates. Not all Biden supporters are socialists. Not all Trump supporters are bombastic. There are good, decent people on both sides.
For many people, it’s a black and white situation. Like this commenter: “I think it’s very difficult to maintain a close relationship with those who are so opposite my belief system!” And another put it like this. “I don’t understand how people can think so differently. I still like my friends who will vote differently but it has changed my perspective of them and the world.”
Is Politics Your God?
Candice says this. “I do place a guard up when interacting with those who treat politics as their god. (On both sides of the aisle).”
It doesn’t take much searching to find someone who is so thoroughly ingested with politics and the upcoming election that they have made it a god, an object of worship. Franklin Graham whose father led millions to Christ, seems to have forgotten the Other Kingdom, the one that sits on a hill as he curries political favor, seemingly at any price. I know another man who has spent his adult life ministering to students, telling them of a better way and a Savior. His social media life is now immersed in anti-Republican screeds and I must wonder, “What happened to the joy of your salvation?”
Blind faith in a political figure or a concept or power can be found on both the left and the right. And by calling out both sides, I risk angering everyone. I get it. These are the times we live in.
Aren’t there more important things to this life than who wins an election? All throughout time, nations have been led by fools, knaves, crooks and manipulators. And through all those tyrannical and manical leaders, God’s people have endured, their eyes on a different Passion and a Higher Way of Living.
All is not lost
Debbie is more hopeful, blaming much of this divide on our COVID separation. “I’d like to think, that in person we could still talk about the issues, even if we share the same faith but have very different perspectives and priorities, without the conversation turning bad and the friendship being jeopardized.”
Teresa, who I have known since I was 4 years old, says this. “I have never prayed as hard as I’ve prayed right now for our souls.”
We can’t continue like this and expect to survive. We might not have a Civil War (especially with one side eschewing guns), but there is an uncivil war in churches, workplaces, and families. This election is not more important than our friends. It’s not worth turning our backs on those we love. Elections come and elections go. But our relationships should last forever.
I would like these few words to be a clarion call to both people of good reason and those of faith – don’t forget the people you love.
There are those who are friends and family who need you – if not now, they will need you in the future.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:31-32