An Election Reflection: Why Politics Is Personal

An Election Reflection: Why Politics Is Personal July 25, 2016

This guest post was written by Sarah Anderson.

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Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., in a political family, had its pros and cons. A pro was the access we had to things like the Smithsonian and the monuments. Cons would be the insistent political murmur that invaded most conversations and the sense of emergency that surrounded every upcoming legislative vote, appointment, and election.

And then there were the things that just were—like the fact that politics always hit close to home. Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, you knew that behind every election, national firestorm, and escalating debate, were real people—people who you’ve met, who’ve gathered to eat dinner at your house, who you’ve taken vacations with. These people weren’t just suits on a TV screen. They were friends. They went home to real spouses, tucked in real children, and felt the weight of their decisions on real shoulders.

When you grow up in the shadow of Washington, you know this. Politics is personal.

This is complicated. Because, as is evidenced by social media, the talking heads on the news, and the articles appearing on both blogs and nationally syndicated newspapers, most of the time politics is not personal at all. Politics is a sport. It’s a chance to stun with our barbs, wound with our carefully worded condemnations, and impress with our well-educated defenses and criticisms.

The age of sound bites has made it easy to oversimplify the world by making it black and white—the politicians in our midst oversimplified as well. As a result, we think it’s our right to beat up and tear down the figureheads we disagree with, letting lose our most visceral and mean spirited attacks. And now, thanks to the Internet, everyone has an audience to do that to and a platform to do that from. For 99% of the country, politics is a chance to air opinions under the illusion that this all about policy.

But when you understand that politics is personal, you realize this isn’t simply about a party, platform, or program. Politics is about individuals. And as easy as it is to believe otherwise, those people we spend our time demonizing, ridiculing, lambasting, and shaming, are actual humans.

Shamefully, in our over zealous effort to advocate for the humanity in

the unborn,
the refugee,
the immigrant,
the working class, and
the marginalized,

we have forgotten the humanity of those who’ve given more of themselves to the political process than we could possibly know, and who are attempting to make our country the best version of itself—even if their version conflicts with ours.

And for those of us who love God and follow Jesus this is no small offense–because we were called to a higher ethic.

For as long as I can remember, I have gotten up on Sunday mornings and gathered with other Christians to hear about the infinite kindness of a loving God whose Son went the greatest lengths imaginable to win back the hearts of the people He created.

The people He created.

We can talk all day long about the love God has for the group of people we are championing at the moment. But we quickly forget about the image of God found in those representing politics we disagree with, who are the representatives of a political ideology that is not ours.

We don’t have to like them. We don’t have to think they represent good ideas. We can think they are narcissistic, crooked, dangerous, and are single-handedly capable of destroying everything this country stands for. But we don’t get to look at them and dismiss their humanity, snubbing the image of God intrinsic in them. We don’t get to scoff at their personhood when their heavenly Father sees some of Himself in them.

We get to choose something different. Something harder. But also, something better.

We get to choose kindness. 

That doesn’t mean we soften our ideals, stand for nothing, and fall for everything. It means we start seeing the people on the screen of our TVs, in the feed on our phones, in the subject of the articles, blogs and panels, as human beings, made in the image of God.

What might happen if we did that? What if we saw the opposing candidate with as much humanity as the refugee looking for asylum, and the baby granted no rights until born? What might happen if we saw people as members not simply of a political party, but of a family? As less a picture of every policy they represent and more like a citizen of humanity?

I think the next couple of months might look different. I pray to God they do, that it won’t be politics as usual in the remainder of our election year. Because I know people with skin in this game. I know people who are the dogs in the fight. And they deserve better than what we’ve given them so far. They deserve people willing to stand up, look them in the eye, literally—or via whatever medium we have—and say, “I may not agree with one policy you have, I may cringe when you open your mouth, I may not trust a word you say. And yet. I am holding tightly to what I know is true. That God made you, God loves you, and I respect and honor that in you. “

I am not saying that on the Wednesday after Election Day we should cross party lines and hold hands singing Kumbaya together. I’m just saying, we better get our act together. And as Christians we better lead the way.

We can exercise our Constitutional right and vote how we want to vote.

We can exercise our First Amendment right to speak out and to voice our opinions.

But may we do so cognizant of the law of love, of kindness, of grace, and of our shared citizenship not only of a country we love, but of a humanity God loves too.

 


About Sarah Anderson
Sarah is a wife to Rodney, mom to Asher and Pace, and Washington DC transplant living in the Atlanta area. She works as a writer for Orange and blogs regularly at www.sarahbanderson.com.

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