How Bad the Political Polarization Is Getting

How Bad the Political Polarization Is Getting October 2, 2019

Americans have become highly polarized over politics, and the Congressional impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump are going to make it worse, from both sides.

Anecdotally, one can hear about lifelong friends now hating each other over politics.  Families are split between pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions, with relatives either raging at each other or refusing to speak to their own flesh and blood.  Churches are being torn up, with some members of the congregation saying, “How can you call yourself a Christian if you support Trump?” and others saying “How can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t?”

In addition, political animosity and political harassment  have become problems in America’s workplaces.  So says an article in MarketWatch by Andrew Keschner, who cites data from the Society for Human Resource Management.  The HR organization says that they are getting more complaints about political harassment than sexual harassment.  And that political arguments have become major contributor to “toxic work environments.”  From the article:

Worker turnover because of “toxic” office cultures has already cost companies $223 billion in the past five years, up 24% from 2008 to 2012, according to findings released Wednesday from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). . . .

A survey last year from the staffing company Robert Half International RHI, -0.64%   found 22% of workers got into a “heated discussion with a co-worker” during the last presidential election. Another 15% said their productivity slipped because of the water cooler political talk. . . .

The SHRM hot line already received 916 queries this year on how to handle politics in the workplace, up 195% on 310 politics-related calls the previous year, said Alexander Alonso, the professional association’s chief knowledge officer. The hot line receives 600,000 calls every year.

In fact, calls on politics are coming in at a much higher rate than questions about sexual harassment, even as the #MeToo movement gains steam.

“It’s like nothing we’ve seen,” notes Jimmie Taylor, the CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. “The level of toxicity in the environment is at an all-time high.”

These are not just the time-honored good-natured arguments between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservative, that friends, family members, and fellow workers have always engaged in when they “talk politics.”  Today “talking politics” often means rage-filled, contemptuous personal attacks.

The “toxic” political talk comes from both sides, but my impression is that supporters of Trump have tended to employ mockery and sarcasm in an attempt to “own the libs,” while opponents of Trump pour out their hatred for the president–there is no other word for it–onto his supporters whom they blame for putting him into office.  But that was before the impeachment proceedings, which, as the HR organization says, is making everything worse.  As Trump opponents exult in a sense of vindication, Trump supporters are infuriated by those who are attempting to remove the lawfully-elected president.

There is nothing wrong with righteous anger, though we are enjoined to “be angry but sin not” (Eph 4:26).  That’s hard to do, but possible.

Intense political conflicts have broken out throughout our history.  But when they disrupt the family, the church, the state, and the workplace–that is, the various realms of our callings–they become a vocational issue.  We need to remember that the purpose of each of these vocations is to love and serve the neighbors whom each vocation brings into our lives.  Not “own” them, not hate them, not win over them (as opposed to win them over), but love and serve them.  We might still be angry with them, but not at the expense of loving and serving them.

We do have a vocation as citizens, and we are right to promote our beliefs and take part in the public square.  So the answer is not for Christians to withdraw from politics.  But all the while Christians should remember that while they are citizens of the temporal kingdom, they are also citizens of an eternal kingdom.  The temporal kingdom will not last.  If we get the government we want, it won’t solve all our problems.  And if we get the government we don’t want, it won’t thwart God.  All human governments will pass away.

That should give us some perspective, at least, which is sadly missing today, especially from people who have let politics become their religion.

 

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 


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