Election Year Sanity: Guidelines For Engagement


It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes-Psalm 118:9 ESV‬

The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world- Reinhold Niebuhr ¹

My relationship with partisan politics has a complex history. At different times in my life, I have supported both parties as well as a number of third party candidates. I have been both a “bleeding heart liberal” and a staunch “Christian right” loyalist.

Over time, however, I concluded that the Gospel of Christ simply would not neatly fit into left/right subcategories. In the mid 1990s I decided to become an independent and I have never regretted it.

Later, while in my mid 30s, I became a “non-traditional” college student. One of the most helpful things I ever learned in college came from my freshman English class. There we were taught how to identify and avoid rhetorical fallacies. Once I learned this simple skill, the entire way that I follow politics and current events drastically changed.

I began to understand how politicians thrive on using fallacious arguments to take advantage of voters. Soundbites are substituted for substance. This has only become worse in subsequent decades.

While I continue to be engaged and advocate for issues I care about, I have found that I can do so more effectively without the baggage of a party label. Furthermore, the aforementioned use of false and fallacious arguments is widespread among both parties and I cannot excuse it just because it happens on “my side.” Democrats do it. Republicans do it. As Christians, we cannot do it.

Furthermore, for all of its positive uses, social media has made it far too easy to dehumanize people. Things can be said from the comfort of a keyboard that would frankly get some people punched in the face if they said it in person.

This should go without saying, but one of the last places you should get your political information from is social media. In addition, believers must realize that we are to represent Christ in all that we do, including our online conduct. In light of this, I would encourage you to ask yourself some honest questions before you go on the attack:

  • Do you take time to fact-check your sources and fallacy-check your arguments? No matter how vehemently you may disagree with someone, bearing false witness is still a sin.

  • Do you apply double standards? For example, if you were among those who were (rightfully) upset over Bill Clinton’s infidelities, do you turn a blind eye to Donald Trump’s? Or vice versa?
  • Are you actually looking to change people’s minds, or are you simply looking for “high fives” from those who already agree with you?
  • If your info comes from an obviously partisan source, why should anyone accept it as objective news?
  • Do you consider your “side” to be infallible? If they were genuinely shown to be in the wrong about something, would you admit it?
  • If a person disagrees with you, does that automatically make them your enemy?
  • Do you make any attempt to address the other side’s concerns and offer a better solution without belittling or insulting them?
  • Remember, for every “bomb” you throw at the other side, they are throwing just as many at yours. Do you offer any compelling reason for accepting your viewpoint instead of theirs?
  • How did you come to accept your viewpoint? Would someone using your current tactics have still been able to persuade you?

Partisan zealots are a dime a dozen. Again, politicians count on people voting based on emotional manipulation rather than critical thinking. Those of us who are Christian must remember that we have a higher standard. We are called to be peacemakers, lovers of truth and lights in the darkness. As the political process continues to deteriorate into a circular firing squad, we have a special opportunity to be voices for Election Year Sanity.

Keep It Real,

1. Niebuhr quote taken from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/reinhold_niebuhr_116900







#jameshboyd #keepitreal #yourfriendjames

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