Thinking differently about politicians
Today’s contributor shares how cynicism about a local election lifted as she considered what it means to follow the Bible’s counsel to “love one another,” even in the face of a polarizing public figure.
Many of us would agree these are partisan and polarizing times, whether it’s one government trying to influence another country’s citizens or various ways politicians try to get votes in their own country. I’ve always tried to avoid the fray of partisan politics but recently found myself getting drawn in, and I didn’t like it.
This came to light as I was thinking about a conversation I’d had with some friends about a certain politician running for reelection. I told them that my only criterion for her opponent was that the individual be “breathing,” such was my opposition to this candidate. At the time we all laughed, but when I thought about it later, I realized that this kind of mind-set only served to fuel a sense of polarization and frustration.
A Bible passage I’ve often found helpful came to mind so strongly that I could practically hear Christ Jesus’ words ringing in my ears: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34, 35).
I noticed that Jesus didn’t say to love everyone except politicians or only “if he or she thinks the same way you do.” So I had to ask myself, What does it mean to love another, especially if that person is a public figure seeming to have a polarizing effect?
I realized that in the past I’d seen how helpful it had been when I had striven to see others in a more spiritual light instead of reaching a snap judgment. So I decided to take that approach.
I thought of how Jesus had to deal with all kinds of leaders, and he could be tough when he needed to be. But the crucial point was that he wasn’t seeing them as simply flawed human beings, outside of God’s love. To him, all were in reality God’s spiritual creation, each one useful and loved.
This helped me see that the particular politician I had been reacting to, and all people, are worthy of God’s love as the children of the one divine Mind. This is not to say that we must, or should, love all of everybody’s actions. It means distinguishing the material mentality that leads to selfish or self-serving actions from the spiritual qualities that represent the Mind that is God - such as intelligence, wisdom, foresight, and patience. We are all equally essential to God’s creation, but our importance stems from the spiritual nature we each have, which is not defined by measures such as education, wealth, contacts, and so on.
As I thought about these points in relation to my feelings about this particular politician, I realized that if my criterion for an effective politician was that he or she simply be breathing, then the candidate I was opposed to actually met my criterion: She was breathing!
At first I laughed at this insight. But I also felt deservedly rebuked at being so judgmental. I realized the responsibility each of us has to support integrity in government, and to have true compassion for those in public service. God’s presence and power are there for all, regardless of gender, political affiliation, or background. We’re all so much more than the positions we take on issues and the parties we choose to support.
Naturally, we do have to make choices in voting. But I’ve found that taking time to consider the spiritual nature of all involved can open my heart to productive discussion, and guide my individual decision as to which candidate I feel is best suited for a public leadership role.
As I’ve considered the upcoming election in my area from this more spiritual basis, I have found myself thinking differently about it. Instead of seeking to find things that were wrong with this individual, I’ve been listening to her statements, as well as to the comments by her opposing candidates. I’ve discovered that she has some worthy accomplishments, and I have gained in my respect for her.
I can’t project the outcome of the race as the pundits try to do. But I do know that the change in my thinking has enabled me to better evaluate the political issues that need to be addressed and to more objectively consider each of the candidates in the race – all of whom are, indeed, breathing and, more importantly, equally worthy children of God.