Discussing The Election With The Women We Disciple
“Don’t talk about religion or politics.”
I’m guessing you have heard this before. Discussing religion and politics can lead to heated debates, create division, and sadly, end friendships.
In the wake of the election, I’d like to share why I believe it is imperative to talk about politics with those we are investing in and growing with as they follow Jesus (a.k.a. those we disciple). In light of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that all who follow him would be one just as he and the Father are one, helping those we disciple to navigate these types of situations and climates within the body of Christ may be one of the most valuable lessons we can teach them.
First, by taking the time, interrupting whatever we have scheduled, and initiating conversations with those we disciple, we are reflecting the God who sees and cares about this election and it’s implications. We have the privilege of being a tangible expression of the God who is ready to engage with us, be present with us, and help us wrestle through our questions. To NOT engage in this area communicates that God doesn’t have anything to do with our politics, that the gospel doesn’t apply to this area of life, and that Christians do not need to be concerned with the hurt and division taking place in our country right now. All of those things are false. The gospel demands engagement and application from those who follow Jesus.
One professor I know changed her entire seminary class on the Wednesday morning following the election. Her class spent 90 minutes in prayer, then took time to consider how they will lead in this divisive time and what spiritual practices might help fuel this type of leadership. That is intentional engagement. By not talking about it we allow people to celebrate without demonstrating empathy or mourn without receiving comfort and potentially miss the God who wants to engage with them and help them consider others. (For wisdom about how to people while engaging these conversations, please check out this interview with Melody Gardner.)
Second, this is an opportunity to look at what the Bible says about responding to our leaders and government and operating in society. The Bible deals with our real lives and speaks to the structures in our society. It addresses governments, leaders, authorities, legislation, and loyalties. The Bible teaches us that the leaders he allows to come to power may act righteously or may do evil (2 Kings 12 and 13). The Bible teaches us to be subject to the governing authorities that God has established (Romans 13:1) and at the same time, God gives us examples of men and women who honor God by disobeying ruling authorities when what is mandated violates God’s commands (Exodus 1). Through discipleship we can wrestle with these passages, and many more, and ask the hard questions about what these mean for our lives, our country, and our current realities. As we help others follow Jesus, we cannot settle for the rote Christian answers, but must dig in to the full counsel of the scripture and wrestle with God in the area of politics. (For more on this check out this post – Christianity & Politics Part 2)
Third, this election season gives us the opportunity to apply scripture in so many ways. We get to apply scripture to each political party and each candidate’s policies and statements. What does God say about Trump’s prejudice and demeaning comments towards women, ethnic minorities, Muslims, and others? What does God say about Hillary Clinton’s denial of rights to unborn children? How does the Bible speak to the blatantly hateful and racist things that have been done and said to people following the election by those who feel the freedom to do so because Trump was elected? What does the Bible and Jesus’ life inform the ways we look at education reform, medical care, foreign policy, and so much more? (Please know, I am not suggesting this can all happen in one conversation)
We also have the opportunity to apply God’s truth to how we interact with and care for others during this time. Whatever your political affiliation or whoever you voted for, the reality is that there are many people in the body of Christ who are mourning and grieving. As followers of Christ who are part of God’s family, we have forfeited the right to be unconcerned or to disregard the feelings of others; and that includes how people are experiencing this election. Whether or not one understands the response of fear or mourning, the call remains to be obedient to God’s command to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and to pray for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:18). How can we do these things if we don’t listen to learn why people are mourning, grieving, protesting and fearful? How will we know how to pray or encourage if we don’t know what weighs others down and keeps them awake at night? We need to recognize that our perspectives are influenced by so many things, including our ethnicity, culture, and experiences, and we need to value and learn from the perspectives of others made in God’s image. We can help those we invest in to see themselves as vitally connected to the beautifully diverse family of God [which moves us towards relationships, conversation, empathy, and oneness] instead of living and experiencing life individually.
This all may sound great, but it will not happen unless we initiate and talk about the election with those we disciple. You may be thinking I don’t feel equipped to do this! That’s ok. If you are seeking to invest your life in someone else and help them walk with Jesus this is probably not the first time you have felt this way and it won’t be the last! During my 15 years of investing in women, this feeling has become a norm in my life. Know that you do not have to be the only voice speaking into these matters, in fact, please don’t be. Reach out to those with more experience in this arena than you and ask someone to disciple YOU in this area.
If you are reading this and think, "This is too hard to navigate." I want to remind you that God doesn’t give us that option. We serve a Savior who cares about all the areas of our lives. Jesus came to be with us, to make himself subject to governing authorities, to live out justice, to care about people’s physical needs, to advocate for those who were marginalized, to advise people on how to navigate life in the empire they lived in, and to show what it looks like to honor God in all areas of life. The goal of discipleship is to help people follow this Jesus, and if they want to follow this Jesus, we need to be ready to help them engage in seasons like this and that starts with a conversation about politics.
Lynne Shenk is a dear friend and guest contributor for us . She is originally from Pennsylvania and has lived in Atlanta for the last 4 years. She loves spending time with people, working for justice, learning about and experiencing different cultures, exploring the outdoors, and fighting for oneness in the body of Christ. She has the privilege of serving the athletic department at Georgia State University with the ministry of Athletes in Action and is the program director for the Lenses Institutes (www.lensesinstitute.com).