Wherever you stand politically, I think you’d agree that today is a tough and frustrating and difficult day. Even if your candidate came out victorious last night, it’s clear that good people around our country are sad and hurt and angry and scared and divided.
We’re all weary, and I think it’s safe to say we’re all glad at least this portion of the political season is over. Finally, finally, finally over. Finally.
Most people would also agree that the two major candidates competing last night were not the best our country had to offer. However, I believe we collectively as a nation chose those two people for one primary reason:
Both parties did a masterful job of convincing their followers that the other side was evil and had nothing but ruin in mind for our futures. We were asked to put our reservations and frustrations about the candidates aside–valid as they were–because their candidate was the only person standing in the way of the evil adversary taking over the White House and destroying our beloved America.
I think we came to this point because the last 15 years have taught us to be afraid. Terrorist attacks, beheadings, school shootings, and natural disasters have become the norm. We’re no longer shocked or surprised when those things happen, but we’ve become more cautious. We don’t know who we can trust. Our worlds are becoming more global, and suddenly people who don’t look or think or act like us are everywhere. Whenever we meet someone new, we’re not entirely sure they‘re not one of them.
Humans don’t like ‘different.’ We’re scared of it. But here’s what I know: As I age and mature, I realize more and more how important and valuable it is to surround myself with people who are different than me. Over the past few years especially, I have realized how inadvertently wrong I was about important things. I wasn’t wrong on purpose, but I was still wrong, and I needed a different perspective to reveal that truth to me.
Different is very, very important.
I’ve spent time with Muslims in Paris and Cairo.
I have good friends who are African Americans.
I have friends who are gay and friends whose parents are immigrants.
I have very close family members who hold very different theological views than I do.
I have friends who are athletes and artists and pro-life and pro-choice and professors and plumbers and Mormons and missionaries.
And all of them are wonderful people I enjoy spending time with. I don’t agree with them about some very important things, and they know that. They also know I’m not pushing to modify their behavior or constantly prove that they’re wrong. That doesn’t work, and deep down you know you wouldn’t want to hang out with that kind of person anyway. And those people I disagree with are frankly more fun and more life-giving than some people I know who share my demographics.
Should we keep each other accountable, challenge our beliefs, and strive to always grow? You bet. Difficult conversations are an important part of any friendship, but in my opinion that is much more effective when you are kind, open, humble, and honest. You will never grow or challenge your beliefs if you never encounter different.
I typically keep my political views very private. My friends know I’m a Christian, but I’m not incredibly vocal about specifics of what I believe. Lately I’ve taken some chances and shared statements online that went deeper than normal about my beliefs. Most people were kind and receptive and respectful, but some people weren’t.
It’s scary to share your opinion, especially when you work at a church and usually avoid conflict. Sadly this election cycle has reminded me that some people don’t know how to handle a difference of opinion, and when I’m different from who they thought I was, they’re not sure how to respond.
I’m a huge advocate of being very thoughtful and careful when posting online, but I’m also exhausted from the tiptoeing. I may in fact be different from you–even if our skin and religion and income are similar–and that is absolutely ok.
And you know those Muslims and gay people and immigrants and artists and athletes I mentioned? Whenever I spend time with one of them that I disagree with, I also come away a little surprised how much we’re alike. I can genuinely enjoy my time with someone who holds almost completely different religious and political views from me. I’ve spent time in four different countries, and every trip I take I’m reminded how similar every human is simply because we’re human. Sure we’re different, but we’re also the same.
And after spending time with those people, it’s harder to see them as an enemy. Suddenly the other side doesn’t seem so crazy. They have real, legitimate reasons (sometimes driven by hurt and pain) that led them to the beliefs they hold dear. When I see and hear and understand that, suddenly different isn’t so scary.
And I hope those people leave conversations with me feeling very similar. They may not agree with me about faith or politics, but I hope they leave a conversation with me thinking, “Ya know, sometimes those Evangelical guys act like jerks on TV, but that Matt guy is alright. He drinks too much Dew and has silly hair, but he’s not an insane bigot.”
That’s a good goal: Try to not make people think you’re an insane bigot.
I’m very aware that I am a white, straight, Christian male, and in our culture that means I am very privileged. Many of you are probably taking today’s news a lot harder than I am, although I’m not very happy either. Still, here’s what I know: Right now, we have no control over who is in the White House. That decision has been made (by us). We don’t have much say in national policy or global relations.
But ya know what? We have total control over how we treat each other. So let’s do a better job at that. We have to, or this exact thing will happen over and over and over again as long as we believe the lie that only politicians can save us and ‘different’ people are wrong and scary.
Stop it with the angry Facebook posts. Stop it. Be nice to people who disagree with you–even if you are convinced they are horrible and hopeless (they’re not). If we’re not afraid and we are kind and loving, there’s less of a need for government. If we dialogue with people who disagree and help people who need it, the world will be so much better than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or anyone else could possibly enforce through policy and law. Stop the fear, stop the anger, and start the love–the only thing that can heal this mess we’ve created.
Whether we share political and religious views or not, it’s hard to argue with the words of Jesus. According to Him, the second greatest commandment of all time is to love each other. In fact, my Savior taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. The love He taught us to have is supposed to be patient, kind, humble, honoring, others-focused, and truth-seeking. It does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
So let’s do that. To everyone. Always.
Nothing else works, and nothing else is helpful–especially on days like today, especially with people who are different.