My “fight or flight” response kicked in before I could swallow. My friend had interrupted our casual meeting to rehearse the latest talking points verbatim from his political candidate’s time on the morning news show. I had seen the interview and then immediately pledged to stop watching all morning news talk shows because I was so distressed.
I did O.K. with my friend, I think. I didn’t roll my eyes as he talked, but I could feel my blood pressure rise, my stomach knot, and my smile freeze in place. Passing time slowed to nearly zero.
My growing irritation slid toward something darker. Social confusion crept in. Then impatience. Immediately as I wrestled through my feelings I thought, “What do I say when he takes a breath?”
Even polite agreement with my friend felt like compromising my deeply held values. Direct confrontation was not a great option either. Self-control was an issue. I knew that raising my voice at a friend wouldn’t help. Nor would smirking. I was afraid that those poor responses were exactly what would tumble out of me if I opened my mouth.
Been there? Maybe at a Christmas meal or other family gathering? Or when visiting a church?
You have noticed that I did not say which candidate, party, or political issue jump-started all my internal turmoil. That is not the most important thing here for me, and naming an issue might set one of us off! My questions are, “What is wrong with me?” and “What can I do to change my over-the-top inner turmoil?”
In the moment I was struggling hard, but as my faith crept back in, I did calm down a bit. I started to believe the gospel promises again right in my clenched heart. As I did, my heart softened, and eventually my thoughts and emotions remembered the promises of Jesus that define me at my core.
With all Christians, I believe that my true identity flows from my faith connection to Jesus. When I am putting my hope Him, I am a different person. And because of my rebirth and new allegiance, I have become a stranger and an alien in my own culture. I live looking forward to the coming Kingdom of God. I pray for it with all my heart. My friend does, too. “Thy kingdom come.” “Maranatha—Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
I need to trust my heart and future to the One who said “my kingdom is not of this world.” When He said these words, Jesus knew He was speaking to people controlled by brutal occupation and trapped in the politics of the greatest world powers of their day, Rome.
In Christ, I am a child of a Father King who never asked for my vote. Because of His love for me as His child, I believe that my trust and love of Him is best expressed when I love others, like my differently opinioned friend, and even my enemies. And love them tangibly, truly from my heart.
Somehow political talk, especially during in this election season, tends to subvert my faith. It can pull me into some emotional, cultural vortex where I and my opinions and my ideas are the most important things in the moment. Where I can say awful things and become intolerant, smug, and cynical in the blink of an eye. And then feel good about it, like I should be recognized and rewarded for enlightening the ignorant and helping change culture.
I hate that! I hate me when I’m like that! So in those moments, I am learning pray simply: “Help me believe the truth of your promises, Jesus.”
This particular tense moment passed when my friend stopped himself mid-recitation and said, “Hey…so sorry to get all crazy political on you. How’s Barbara? Where are you off to next?” And in just a moment everything changed.
But I didn’t need to just forget my internal storm and move on. God graciously kept me unsettled because He wants me to own and engage all the things that my friend’s talk churned up in my heart. I am still wrestling at times with what it means to love others when we all have a political life. How can I love and even talk about politics without rants, smug superiority, or dark cynicism?
I want to keep my Kingdom identity clearly in mind even when the politics of this world seem more important. My struggle feels like one of the cutting edges of my faith for me. It’s a place where I most need the grace of the gospel and the love of Christ to cover me—and to make me more than a self-righteous pundit with amazing political insights.