Prickly neck hairs, tensed expressions, sweaty palms and the occasional desire to hide — these are just a few things you may have experienced if you were sitting in the audience at the Forester Lecture “Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics” with Lisa Sharon Harper and David Innes, Ph.D. I came expecting a night of refreshingly respectful and civil discussion between two Christians about the current political situation. I left wishing for the very same thing.
It’s not hard to see that today’s political climate is, to say the least, hostile. I’d even venture to say it has started to resemble a war. Everyone has chosen a side and begun to blame the opposition for all the present troubles. Obama is the Antichrist.
Romney is the devil. Quick, someone grab the pitchforks!
When exactly did we stop discussing what was best for our country and start yelling our opinions louder than the “enemy”? People have stuck their heels in the sand. This is apparent even in civil phrases such as, “Well, you have your opinion, and I have mine.” While this is a true statement, it is not a good excuse to avoid debating the issues of politics that intimately affect us all. We, as a nation, claim to be united. For such a unity to exist, there needs to be an open conversation on how we can reach an agreement that best satisfies everyone.
Easier said than done, I know.
Watching this discussion between two Christians, two individuals claiming to be brother and sister in Christ, was depressing. If two people with such a core value can’t have a truly civil conversation, then things are looking bleak. A model of civil political discussion was not quite achieved that night, but they did give us a starting point.
The main problem I observed between the two was a lack of listening. Rather than carefully listening to the other’s opinion, they were constantly on the defense, looking to twist the examples used and jump in with a rebuttal as soon as possible. There was a greater interest in making their own points heard than truly engaging and challenging one another.
These are important issues so a civil conversation can have passionate responses, but what it can’t have is belittling and bigotry. One can’t enter such a conversation assuming they have perfect opinions. Without humility, issues cannot truly be wrestled with so results will never come. If all our energy is put into fighting each other, none is left to battle the issues that really matter.
I know the flaws in our political system are craters and having a civil conversation is only a pebble being tossed in to fill it, but we must start somewhere. To be united, we must have common ground, and to find that common ground, we must listen to each other.