It’s no secret that America’s political climate has become increasingly divisive, confusing, and relationally-straining. Many people are questioning their party affiliation after decades of loyalty. Maybe you’re one of them.
There’s a lot to talk about and while I know we all love the never-ending heated debates that constantly show up on our feeds, I think I’ll settle for telling you a short story and then tell you why I believe we would all be better off if we took more time to listen to people’s stories who are different than us.
Amidst 2016’s fiery and divisive presidential race, Stone and I had dinner with a couple of friends to discuss our political views. We all came to dinner knowing we sat on opposing sides of the political spectrum. Scary, right?
A little. Most worthwhile experiences in life are.
Our conversation was more than civil, but of course required grace and patience at different points. While we had our faith in common, we had very different upbringings. You see, my friend is from Cuba and her family moved here when she was younger. She shared about her family’s experiences, what they lost when they came, and also what they gained. The word “immigration” is personal to her… it invokes faces, names, and stories. I can’t remember hearing a single story like hers over dinner growing up. I’m white and was raised in a middle-class, conservative home. When I hear “immigration,” protecting our country’s borders is one of the first thoughts that comes to mind.
The end result of dinner wasn’t any of us being converted to the other’s party or leaning, but all of us walked away with a deeper understanding. We all gained ground that night… not because we proved ourselves right, but because we listened well.
Looking back, that dinner served as a catalyst for the journey I’ve been on ever since.
I’ve learned and am learning that if I’m threatened by the idea of sitting across the table from someone who votes differently than me, there’s a good chance the foundation my beliefs stand on is faulty. A foundation that can’t stand the test of hard questions is no foundation at all.
I’ve learned and am learning that listening to people’s stories might not change how I vote, but it will likely change how I communicate my stances and what I feel when I do.
I’ve never been more aware of my blind spots and biases, and I’ve never been more aware of my deep need to share meals with people who are different than me. This is what “putting skin” on (humanizing) our politics does. It makes policies deeply personal, and the weight of voting heavy.
At the end of the day, I do not pledge my allegiance to a party or a politician. I pledge my allegiance to Jesus, to learning what it means to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God, and to a life (I hope) of learning what it means to love Him and my neighbor as myself.
I believe loving my neighbor as myself starts with stepping into their story and seeking to understand before I fight to be understood. I hope this spurs you on to do the same.
P.S. If you read this and are inspired, encouraged, or it causes you to think, here are a few practical actions you can take:
- Next time someone says something political you disagree with, ask questions instead of writing them off or defending yourself/your stance. Make it your aim to truly understand their position.
- Move Facebook arguments to conversations over coffee or dinner.
- Think of someone who you KNOW has a different political stance than you and be intentional about getting to know them and their story.