As mid-term elections approach next week (Nov. 2nd), politics is at the forefront of many peoples’ minds this fall. Coupled with the high degree of interest in this election is a deep sense of distrust and disillusionment with politicians and the political process. Our growing cultural cynicism towards politics is fueled, in large part, by the incessant stream of negative attack ads we encounter in virtually every source of media. Such an attitude causes many Christian to disengage from politics, believing that politics is inherently corrupt and that it matters little who holds power in our country. Others are intensely engaged in politics but have succumbed to the temptation to demonize one’s opponents and contribute, perhaps unwittingly, to the negative political climate.
Neither apathetic withdrawal from or frenzied participation in politics is faithful to Christians’ biblical calling for how we should relate to the government and culture. Rather Christians’ concern for righteousness and justice in society should motivate civil engagement with the political process. Indeed, our calling to be salt and light in the world is lived out as we seek to embody civility in a political process that is increasingly vitriolic and offensive.
Sojourners Magazine (an evangelical Christian publication with politically liberal leanings) recently published a “Truth and Civility Election Watch Pledge” (which I have signed). This pledge states:
For the duration of the election season, I hereby pledge to uphold the highest standards of truth and civility in word, thought, and deed.
On my honor, I will:
• Just say no to crazy email forwards, and to any other noxious electronic communication that comes my way.
• Communicate in a spirit of truth, humility, love, and patience with all people I come in contact with, despite our political disagreements or family relationship.
• Question any and all statements that sound mean, vindictive, or absurd; that provide no source or context; or that are politically motivated.
• Share and enjoy stories of folks who are living out an attitude of truth and civility.
• As a witness for God, encourage and spread a message of hope and reconciliation to a world that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. Like Jesus taught.
While my personal views tends toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, and while I am concerned about the encroachment of the government increasing in our lives and the consequent erosion of liberty, I often am aghast at the vicious, irresponsible way conservative politicians and analysts sometimes distort truth and exaggerate the flaws of their opponents (of course, the other side shares in this guilt), and at how some conservative Christians uncritically accept these claims and spread them haphazardly. I do not agree with everything Sojourners writes and stands for, but they often shine biblical light on politics in ways that the Christian right do not. Thus, I am thankful for their simple call to uphold standards of civility during this election system and for reminding me that it is my Christian duty to do so.