By BRENNA WEAVER
How to love across the aisle
Question: With the presidential election coming up, how do I love my family members of a different political party well?
Answer: Election season can be a trying time. The influx of political news stories, commercials, mass mailings, neighborhood canvasses, and social media posts can feel overwhelming. There are those who find political discourse energizing and can engage with it well; however, for others, politics can be extremely divisive and cause major rifts.
For years, etiquette experts have cautioned against speaking about politics in social circles, but family is a different circle, typically with separate rules. As one grows and individuates, he or she may develop views which do not align with grandparents, parents and even siblings. One also may marry into a family with contrasting political outlooks. So how do you love family members of different political parties well?
First, it is important to remember that no political party perfectly upholds Christian values or has a true biblical worldview; it is a man-made system, after all. While many aim to vote their values or conscience, that looks different for each individual. The environmental policies that you hold dear may not mean as much to your uncle; he might place a higher value on social policies, and that is okay.
It may be beneficial to view these differences as different parts of the same body. 1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us, “the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” The body of Christ is diverse, and it makes sense that the diversity stretches across political party lines.
Have you considered what makes it difficult for you to love your family members well? If the person presents his or her opinion as fact, talks over you, or criticizes your stance, it is easy to see how that can create feelings of anger and frustration. Implementing healthy parameters around political conversations at the beginning could help so you each feel heard and understood.
Also, is it possible that you are judging them harshly based solely on their political affiliation? Taking a step back to reflect on why you feel the way you do with this person can expose any underlying issues of pride (my party is the right party), wrath (she’s broken family tradition by switching parties and that makes me angry), or something else. While political leanings are deeply personal and can cause discord, I am reminded of Titus 3:9, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”
We are called to be responsible citizens and to participate in society at large. Elected officials have power to shape policies and make laws which have lasting affects for years, good and bad. Ultimately, whoever is in office is there because it was ordained by God. Romans 13:1 clearly shows, “there is no authority except that which God has established.”
To love well, try setting boundaries, examining your heart, avoiding quarrels, and remembering God is on the throne.
Brenna Weaver is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Ridgeland working with clients 18 years and older. She has experience as a secondary education teacher and children’s therapist. When not working, she enjoys reading, eating good food, and traveling.