The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

July 23, 2012

Loving Beyond Political Lines

By: 
Lisa Liou

When my husband and I were newlyweds, our fancy cooking gear from our registry did not make me an expert in the kitchen. I remember one time when I quickly washed our Calphalon wok, leaving behind some splashes of water. I then proceeded to pour vegetable oil into the wok and turn the heat on high. Four years later, all the scrubbing in the world could not remove from the ceiling all the giant oil stains caused by the explosion. Lesson learned. The expression “oil and water” made perfect sense to me now. 

Unfortunately, some of my favorite Christian people, if put in the same room together, could have the exact same effect as my cooking experiment.

Can We Love Each Other?

As a campus staff member with InterVarsity, I have worked at some of the country’s most politically liberal campuses. When we lived in another state, my family and I also worshipped consistently with a politically conservative denomination. I love my friends from that conservative church and I love my Christian college students who come with a liberal arts perspective, but I’m not sure they would love one another if in the same room together. 

I worry about our tendency to find comfort in politically homogeneous groups of Christians, while scoffing at Christians of other political mindsets. We often define ourselves by our political persuasion above our Christian identity. We attach a label—conservative Christian, liberal Christian, Democrat and Christian, Republican and Christian. These labels may not cause an issue if we did not use them to define ourselves in opposition to other Christians. 

I wish it were fewer times that I have heard the issue of salvation brought up in the context of politics. At one church I have attended, my pastor had to preach a sermon, stating, “Yes, there are Christian democrats.” I find myself also needing to remind liberal Christian college students that God does not give them the green light to write off conservative Christians just because their political beliefs are “a turn off” to their peers. We belong together and we have to hold that truth with integrity in every area of our lives, which means no bad-mouthing, undermining, or acting superior. 

Danger, Danger!

The danger of these labels on both sides is that we end up pitting ourselves against other Christians, seeing our political identity as more defining that our shared identity in Christ. Instead, we need to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially when they are opposite of us. Our bond in Christ is that strong. Paul goes to great pains to make the point to the Galatians that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(3:28) The same goes for whatever categories we use to separate ourselves from other believers in this day and age. 

We can scratch our head and wonder how our family can be so diverse, but we need to recognize our common bond in Christ and our shared identity. In Ephesians Paul tells us, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”(2:14) Our relationship with Christ may draw us to a particular political persuasion, but if it turns us against faithful brothers and sisters who are also doing their best to live out their persuasions, then we are counterproductive. There is no room for hostility when we have been made one.   

Our shared identity trumps all others. 

Lisa Liou has served undergraduates students on campuses in Michigan, Illinois, and California. In her current role she serves as co-team leader for Southern California’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries team. 

Comments

I have grappled with this for the past year or so, but definitely in the wake of this year's political importance. The place where I see it the most prevalent and difficult is on social media. However, I've also learned, and am still learning, how to read people's opinions with as little a critical eye as possible. I am Republican by party, but there are probably some staunch Republicans who would probably question me on that since there are some Democratic points which I also tend to lean to as well. Like one person mentioned here it should not matter whether you are Democrat or Republican, but that you should weigh on each issue individually and (I add here) with a biblical worldview and no matter what political side that worldview that leans towards if it's biblical that's what matters. We as Christians have a voice in this country and that is the blessing of this country as there are many where our voice would be silenced, sometimes literally. I have friends on both sides of the aisle so to speak and they both challenge my thoughts and if nothing else make me really take the issues seriously and not just as a spectator going with whichever side is winning in the moment. Sometimes I wonder if the general populace tends to that end. If you find yourself in that end, read the issues, read your friends' opinions on both sides, hear them out and once you have reached a conviction, stand on it. The Bible does say that if you waiver on your convictions that is sin because it is not based on faith, but led by fear of man. That's not to say we can't change our convictions or grow in them, but it is for the one who constantly is changing their opinion based on their audience. Be informed, but more importantly be prayerful and in the Word as then you will be able to discern the Lord's will.
This is the right blog for everyone who wishes to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a topic which has been written about for many years. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!
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Some political activists get too attached to the label that represents them and others that they overlook what's most important: the individual.
Without a doubt it's needed to put aside the "party lines" and focus on the greater good of the country on a whole. I agree that if we are all considering ourselves to "Christians" then we really need to put aside being petty, and focus on helping each other, no matter which party is involved. Many times something that is "good" for the country is discredited simply due to the opposing party not wanting the other party to be "credited" for a good idea.
Politics can be ugly, especially when two opposing sides speak. But one of the things we need to remember is that they are entitled to their own opinions. You may not have as much contention with online Christian learning. But listening to each other's side can still be productive. You can agree to disagree.
As a Christian with some liberal views, I often feel alone in my political stance. I appreciate the encouragement in this article not to let politics divide Christians from one another.
I still am grappling with why our political identities are so different and so strongly held. i sometimes feel that knowing that someone is a conservative republican or a liberal democrat tells me more about that person than knowing whether or not they are a Christian. Those political views are an outgrowth of a large set of interconnected values that are often deeply held. This is an important thing to understand when trying to find our common ground in Christ.
You completely misused the term 'liberal arts' which has nothing to do with political Liberalism other than the fact that many (if not most) liberal arts professors are also politically Liberal. This article does little to give any advice on how to get along with your fellow Christians of a different political persuasion and gives validity to all ways of thinking. It's not about accepting other people's views and ideas, it's about accepting people regardless of their views and ideas. I believe a better approach would be to challenge Christians to not identify with their affiliation with a party or label, but rather break down the issues individually. Another way to put it, it's okay to allow these labels to 'describe' you or your beliefs, but don't let them become a 'title' that identifies you. We should ask ourselves where we stand on each issue and how that stance relates to the way we follow God's will in our lives. It's important that we share our differences of opinion, offer our personal perspectives, and have healthy discussions about these things. It's only when we can look past our selfish desire to have everyone agree with us that we can have constructive dialog about sensitive subjects like politics, discrimination, culture, and religious doctrine.
I just noticed that the word liberal in liberal arts was italicized in my original article to make that more clear. Sorry it got edited out.
Sorry for the confusion. I was going for a double entoundre for the word liberal instead of a misuse of the word liberal arts. As a liberal arts major myself, I understand that the education is not intended to be political in nature. I agree with what you say about healthy discussions and dialogue. That would certainly be ideal. Thanks. Lisa
Yes! Both sides need to hear this.

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