We’re just hours away (hopefully) from knowing the results of this year’s presidential election, and it’s been nothing short of anxiety inducing for people of every political persuasion.
We caught up with Dan Darling, senior vice president of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, to discuss how Christians should approach Election Day. I boiled our 30-minute conversation down to four things we should all remember:
You don’t have to have an opinion on everything.
In the age of social media, we all feel that unspoken pressure. You know what I’m talking about: whenever x happens, if you have a Twitter account of a Facebook page, you have to either condemn it or endorse it. But it shouldn’t be that way.
Christians should absolutely engage in our politics, but we should — at the same time — approach the issues before us with boldness and humility.
“I don’t think the answer to the incivility of our age is for Christians to step back,” Darling said. “I actually think we should be deeply involved on the issues. But [we should engage] in a way that’s redemptive and do it in a way that understands that, ‘Even though I’m voting this way or I’m part of this party or I’m part of this movement, my most high allegiance is to the kingdom of God, and I have to hold these other things loosely.'”
It’s also important to remember we don’t have to have a Hot Take on everything that comes across our news feeds.
“Slow down; I don’t have to have an opinion on everything,” Darling said. “I need to ask myself: ‘Do I have the whole story,’ particularly in a political age. When something comes across the wire that makes my political opponent look bad and is something I don’t know if it’s true but I want it to be true, I need to question my biases. … I also need to say that God cares not just about me being on the right side but about the words that I’m using. No. 3, I try to remember that the people I’m speaking to or disagreeing with are human beings made in the image of God.”
Your political opponent, he added, “is not just an avatar to be crushed or a set of pixels to be destroyed. They’re real people.”
Don’t bind the consciences of other people.
Christians of good will can disagree about President Donald Trump. It’s OK. They can also disagree over Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. What we shouldn’t do is belittle and demean Christians who have arrived at different conclusions about how — and for whom — they’ll vote.
“I don’t think we should bind the consciences of other people,” Darling said. “I know good Christians who disagree on exactly where their votes are gonna land.”
He went on to say: “What really, really grieves me right now is the way Christians are tearing each other apart over this. I wish people could say, ‘You know, I don’t land where you land, but I see where you’re coming from. I love you anyway. This was a good conversation.'”
“I don’t know why we have to just tear each other apart,” Darling continued. “Why can’t we just say, ‘Hey, listen, I don’t land here, but I respect that you do?'”
Political opinions shouldn’t be a litmus test for relationships.
Despite living in an age when our increasingly progressive culture demands we purge ourselves of friendships with people with whom we disagree (the latest example of this comes from CNN anchor Don Lemon, who said he “got rid of” his friends who support the president), it’s important for Christians, in particular, to remember people are made up of much more than their political perspectives.
“I just think that’s wrong,” Darling said. “I don’t think we should let that be a litmus test for our friendships.”
Christians, he added, also have an obligation to begin thinking now — regardless of who wins on Election Day — about what we will do “to help heal the country.”
“Have your opinions, make your voice heard, vote, by all means, stand up for what you believe and against things that are wrong, but how are we gonna heal this country?” Darling asked, urging believers to use their respective spheres of influence to build bridges with those around them.
We cannot see our political opponents as our enemies, because the moment we do that, we cut off the potential for sharing the Gospel with them in the future.
Politics makes for a really bad religion.
More than anything, Christians should buck the notion that our politics is in any way salvific. Our political leaders — whether Democratic or Republican — cannot offer ultimate redemption.
We should celebrate victories, no matter who they come from, praising lawmakers who do right, and rebuking those who do wrong, regardless of their political affiliations. Our identities as believers should not be tied to die-hard allegiances to political parties.
“Politics is a wonderful, good vehicle for human flourishing,” Darling explained. “But it makes a poor religion.”
This year — particularly the trend of cutting out those whose political views differ from our own — has revealed the dangers of making our politics religious.
“I see this stuff all the time,” Darling said. “You know, ‘I told my dad the hard truth that if he votes this way, we’ll never see him again and he won’t see his grandkids.’ That is politics as religion — except for religion with no grace. Don’t do that. Be intentional. Say, ‘I’m gonna have strong opinions, but I’m not gonna let this come between us.'”
One way to resolve that is to “get out of our echo chambers” and have relationships with friends and family members who hold different view points from us because “people aren’t the sum total of their opinions” and to think otherwise is “dehumanizing.”
“I always say you need to have a friend to the right of you who you think is a little bit crazy and a friend to the left of you who you think is a little bit crazy,” Darling suggested. “Now sometimes, you’re that friend.”