On Guns, Bernie Sanders and how we choose to speak of “the other”

Bernie Sanders: ‘Environmentalists Deserve a Debate’, by Katie Valentine

Bernie Sanders: ‘Environmentalists Deserve a Debate’, by Katie Valentine

It’s election season. This means our social media feeds are filling up with the politically slanted opinions of friends, family and that one person at work we can’t actually remember meeting.

One recent example of this came from a social media connection who is a Christian, scholar, professor, and very open Republican (in the immortal words of philosopher/scholar Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”). This individual recently posted about Bernie Sanders, saying:

This is a short and helpful take on Bernie Sanders’s fiery denunciations of “income inequality.” If this issue has you confused, I commend it.”

He then linked to this Washington Post article titled, “What Bernie Sanders doesn’t understand about economic equality.”

What bothered me most wasn’t the authors dissenting view of Democratic Socialism. What troubled me wasn’t the author’s critique of Sanders’ political and economic platform. These are important and valid political conversations to have during an election season.

Instead, what troubled me was the way the author ended his post. The author wrote:

Sanders focuses less on empathy for the poor than on stoking the discontent of those who are comfortable but envious. They will ultimately be discomfited by the fact that envy is the only one of the seven deadly sins that does not give the sinner even momentary pleasure. Fortunately, for most Americans, believing in equality simply means believing that everyone is at least as good as everyone else.

What began as a fair disagreement of economic values, this essay found its conclusion buried in a disappointing accusation of Sanders as a dishonest socialist-bogeyman. The author moved away from educated policy and settled with baseless accusations of Sanders as a troublemaker interested primarily in manufacturing greed and economic discontent amongst a population which is otherwise happy.

Now, it needs to be said that I’m no Bernie apologist. I’m neither Republican nor Democrat, and generally speaking, both parties leave me feeling extremely uneasy (read: nauseous). However, in reading this article, and watching it be “shared” across my Facebook feed, I found myself frustrated by a trend that I’m seeing more and more among Christians; namely a willingness to speak flippantly and unfairly of a political “other.”

The Other

As Christians, we’ve grown far too willing to accept the false narrative of “the other.”

We’ve become far too willing to reduce real people into political talking points.

We’ve grown far too comfortable with fear creeping into the ways we talk about those we disagree with.

They will know us by our…?

As Christians living in an election year, the most important thing we will do will not be to place a pro-life candidate in office, nor will it be electing an anti-gun policy maker in congress. Rather, it will be a public demonstration of our faith inspired love of other during our nation’s long, ugly political journey which lay before us.

…love

Not the familiar culturally-accepted partisan love. Rather, we’re talking about a contrary-to-logic and opposite-to-our-cultural-experiences sort of love. A love demonstrated through the ways in which we love “the politically unloveable.”

This is an upside-down love which refuses to see others as the enemy. It refuses to speak unfairly of those we disagree with. It rejects the siren song of political fear mongering that surrounds us each day.

Where our politicians see just another “fundie” or “liberal,” Christians see those who are created in the image of God.

We don’t follow Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton or Ben Carson. We follow a God who chose to become human and die a humiliating and excruciating death in our place, instead of bring judgement upon those who “had it coming to ’em.”

Simply stated: In a world of partisan love, we are called to emulate Christ, not our preferred pundits.

As Christians entering into the political season, we’d be wise to heed Paul’s famous words in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

I believe, more than anything, it will be our love of others, not a ballot box, which will most clearly bring about the kingdom of God in our culture. It will be our Kingdom hope, not partisan fear which will transform the brokenness we see all around us. It will be our ability to listen instead of shouting over, that will break down philosophical barriers.

It will be honesty the size of a mustard seed that will divinely move a culture of fear and deception the size of Mt. Everest.

As Christians, may we choose a more loving, more honest way.

Rather than demanding our political beliefs be heard, may we demonstrate intellectual fairness and academic responsible dialogue with those we disagree with.

May we listen before we speak.

May we reject political fear-mongering.

May we live in hope instead of fear.

My we love in the face of hate.

May we see our brothers and sisters in the faces of our “enemy.”

Ultimately, may we strive to be like our Father in Heaven, even if our efforts wind up being “poor politics.”

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