Talking Religion and Politics

As we enter the four-year spin-cycle of the presidential election, the unwritten rule for many family dinners and social gatherings is to talk about anything but religion and politics. No doubt, this aversion to talk about these volatile subjects comes with the hope that everyone can get through the gathering without bloodshed or at least avoid a heated argument. The reason these two topics have become taboo is because people tend to have strong convictions about them, both have defined camps (denominations and political parties) and both act like atoms bouncing off each other influencing and being influenced at the same time.

But the mantra to avoid these twin topics says more about us than about the topics themselves. I point this out, not because it’s my job to talk about religion, but because of my concern that followers of Christ should be able to have healthy, constructive, and respectful conversations on any subject, especially within the church. Topics are not volatile, people are. God has a lot to say about how we should treat others who are on the other side of the aisle from us.

Matthew 5:44
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
 
Romans 12:9-10
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 


Here are 5 principles to engage in healthy conversations.
  • Listen for Understanding – Allow the other person to articulate what they believe or how they see things. Because you feel passionately about the topic, you will need to refrain from simply waiting for your turn to speak. Express back to the person what you heard and their reasoning for their stance.

  • Affirm the Things You Agree On – When you make note of the things that you agree on, it helps build a bridge of understanding and lets the other person know that you are reasonable and not an argumentative person looking to pick a fight.

  • Remain Teachable – The other person’s perspective may help you to see another aspect of the issue that you’ve never considered before. No one has perfect knowledge on any topic, so by remaining teachable, your understanding might become more well-rounded.

  • Refrain From Using Inflammatory Language – Calling people names or implying that anyone who stands on their side of an issue is an idiot, racist, homophobe, etc. will shut down conversation. The hope is to present a compelling perspective that aligns with God’s perspective, not to brow beat another person through shame.

  • Pray For God’s Blessing – Pray a blessing on the other person. This is a great way to honor them and to affirm that they are loved and respected.

A final word of caution is to think twice before airing your opinions on social media or commenting on other’s social media posts. We often lose our inhibitions when we are behind a screen instead of in front of a person. Online sparring between Christians gets ugly quickly and does more harm for the cause of Christ than good in facilitating understanding. But if we can have real conversations on important topics in a manner that is befitting of Christ and honoring of others, the world might finally see that we are Jesus’ disciples by the way we love one another.

No Comments