As I continue to ponder partisanship and how we got here, one of the pieces I have been unable to clearly articulate – or even fully figure out – is how and why political differences have become so divisive in our country. How did we get to the point where some people can’t even be in the same room with someone from the other party?
Yet again, a quote from Sharon McMahon (@SharonSaysSo on Instagram) helped me get to the root of this (read the entire article here):
“Now, more than any other time, people view your political viewpoints through the lens of morality,” she said. “And if you are on the wrong side, then you are an immoral person, and you might as well be friends with somebody who, like, kills puppies.” Her goal on Instagram, she said, is to create a space to debate ideas and policies, not people. “If we want a country that is less divisive, we need to be less divisive ourselves.”Sharon McMahon, The Atlantic
And this one:
“Shame,” she told me, “is not a good changer of behavior.” Her theory is that American politics would work better if more people extended more empathy to others. Many people “fundamentally misunderstand the motivations of the other side,” she said, but when you let go of your assumptions, you can see the humanity in the other person. “It’s hard,” she added, “to hate people up close.”Sharon McMahon, The Atlantic
That’s it. We’ve been taught to view politics through a lens of morality and we’ve allowed men like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to convince us that Democrats are the problem, Democrats are evil, don’t you dare associate with them. These messages have become so pervasive that many of us can’t fathom talking to a Democrat or believing that their ideas could be good.
While I am sure this happens on both sides, I can only speak from my own experience spending more than thirty years in conservative American Evangelical culture as a Republican; the very same people teaching me about Jesus and the Gospel were also teaching me, whether overtly or subtly, that Democrats are evil. I trusted them with my faith, why would I not trust them with my politics? I can now see that they should never have brought politics into the discussion.
Jesus does not fit into either political party, and, in fact, aligns with many policy priorities in BOTH parties. But, through calculated methods and unholy agendas, we’ve been led to believe that the ONLY political party for Christians is the Republican party, and there have been decades of work behind the scenes to bring that belief into fruition.
The history of the Moral Majority and other such organizations is darker than I had previously known (worth the read – I had no idea what led to the embrace of the “pro-life” movement until 2020), and as I have continued to deconstruct my politics it inevitably led to deconstructing my faith because the American Evangelical Church is essentially married to the Republican party. In fact, it has become a synonym. It has led to Christian Nationalism – something that must be opposed at all costs.
Rev. Benjamin Creamer has written about this extensively and this is one of my favorite quotes:
Christian nationalism is a temptation.
It tempts us to place the important elements of our country on the same level as the sacred elements of our faith.
It tempts us to equate the American narrative with the narrative of ancient Israel we read about in our scriptures.
It tempts us to equate America’s mission in the world with Christ’s mission in the world.
It tempts us to equate our preferred partisan legislation and our vote with God’s will.
It tempts us to equate America’s founding fathers with the martyrs and the saints of our faith.
It tempts us to equate our preferred presidents with Old Testament kings.
It tempts us to equate the constitution with our Holy Scriptures.
It tempts us to equate the invitation to the Lord’s table where holy communion is placed, with our own demands for political conformity.
It tempts us to equate the flag with the cross.
My friends, this is not the Gospel.
This temptation of nationalism is much like satan’s temptation of Christ. Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:9)
To this Jesus responds: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
The nations of this world will always seek power over others. Just as Satan required Christ to submit to his power in order to gain political control over all the world, so too does the nations of this world require full allegiance of its citizens￼ towards its pursuit of power over all the world. This includes our own.
We who are Christ’s disciples are called to seek first the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom seeks power under people in order to build them up! God’s kingdom seeks power for and with the most vulnerable, the marginalized, and the outcast in order to advocate on their behalf!
There is such a stark difference between these definitions of power. They must never be confused with one another.
To equate the nation’s pursuit of power over others with the pursuit of God’s kingdom that seeks power under, for, and with others is to lose our sacred call and identity as the church.
May we never give into nationalism’s temptation of equating the world’s love of power with Christ’s power of love. – Rev. Benjamin Creamer
What I have come to see so clearly over the past few years is that this demonization of the other side is unfounded. It has to stop because it’s largely based on falsehoods and it is ruining us. It is breaking families apart – and the family is the very thing the American Evangelical Church proclaims is their priority. The politics being preached from the Far Right are undoing the very mission of the Church at a record pace.
What will it take to wake them up?
I am aware that the very people I hope this will reach are likely the ones who have already unfollowed me, unfriended me, or who will simply ignore what I have to say about partisanship because they like it, but I will continue to write in hopes that even one person might read this and allow this to become their moment. The moment where they stop and realize that perhaps there’s a better way. That perhaps the things they have been taught about the other side are not entirely accurate. That perhaps the things they are believing are actually dangerous to our very democracy.
I write out of desperation because I see the train toward the loss of our democracy gaining speed, and I won’t let this happen without doing my part to help slow it down and stop it. And we will only stop it by listening to each other, finding common ground, and ceasing the hyper partisanship that we’ve created. We must stop making assumptions and dehumanizing others. It’s the only way we will overcome this divide, and it starts with us as individuals.
One thought on “Partisanship Through the Lens of Morality”
I agree with everything you wrote.
I am sure that the changes you noted are difficult to promote and accept by many that you love and truly care about….
Politics has taken on an even uglier turn over the past several years….
There are good people on BOTH sides. Good Republicans, good Democrats.
Sadly there seems to be no way to meet in the middle.
And that fact allows America to be in a very dangerous position and very vulnerable to outside forces who would love to destroy America.
We are living in a country divided, not unified in dealing with the truth and moving forward to support each other and those in America who are patriots indeed and want our nation to remain the” last best hope “ for our own country as well as on the world stage as well.
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