Posted by: Philip Rushton | October 15, 2012

Speaking the Truth in Love During an Election Year

“Once you label me you negate me.” – Søren Kirkegaard

A couple of weeks ago I stirred the pot a little bit by publishing a post on the importance of environmental issues from a Christian perspective. I attempted to outline a biblical perspective on the importance of creation care and provide some examples of how this issue has unfortunately been neglected by political and religious conservatives. It was not meant as an endorsement for the left, it was simply a critique of one issue on the right.

I have since removed the post. I did not remove it because I have changed my perspective. I removed it because I realized that the way I presented my ideas created some unhelpful and unnecessary controversy.

I attempted to argue that we need to move beyond labels and be able to critique ideas on both sides of the political spectrum as Christians. I still believe this; however, I realized that I was not following my own rules when my argument devolved into some generalizations about conservatism that were unhelpful. As Kirkegaard emphasizes in the quote above, labels can be used to negate people. Instead of listening to the complexity of a persons opinion we write them off by saying the are “conservative,” or “liberal.” Most of the time the issues at stake require a much more nuanced conversation that allows space for people to define themselves more broadly.

Furthermore, I realized after the fact that these controversial conversations are best had in person, not on the internet. If you ever read the comment section at the end of an online news articles, you can see how quickly they can devolve into mudslinging. To me this is a bit of a cop-out. Too often we hide behind our computer screens and do not actually relate to people that we disagree with in an interpersonal way. So this past week I began following up with folks who took issue with my post in person. This has proved to be much more fruitful then the back and forth comments on a blog. It has lead to deeper understanding and some important relational connection. If anybody would like to continue the conversation in person with me please let me know!

As an immigrant to this country I have quickly realized that the political discourse in America is very heated and divisive. To be sure, there are important issues at stake, and it is important for us to have political conversations. I do not advocate that we sweep issues under the rug. However, we need to learn, as Paul says in Ephesians, to “speak the truth in love.” This is a challenging thing to do. It means that while we should stand up for what we believe to be true, we need to do so in a respectful and loving way towards others.

Our media culture has modeled a very divisive and destructive approach to dialogue. This is a powerful influence in our lives, and I will be the first to confess that I have followed this pattern too often. As Christians we need to learn how to engage people in a different way – in a more redemptive way.

I think this is what Jesus was trying to do with his disciples. When you look at the background of his disciples you discover that they were a divided bunch. He brought together sadducees, pharisees and zealots into his inner circle. This would have been the equivalent of republicans and democrats in the ancient world. The goal of Christian community is to learn how to break down barriers and work out our differences in a redemptive way. Here’s to working towards this end here in Longview!

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Responses

  1. Hi Philip Well written and a balanced framework of truth shared.It is easy to fall into the framework of protecting or projecting our own biases. Henry

  2. Well thought out and well written, but now I wish I had seen the blog.


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