We have all seen the recent uptick in political conversation online. It can be divisive, always includes strong opinions and leaves many taking personal offense. In my opinion, this current field of candidates (on all sides) seems to be devoid of a clear-cut person worth my vote. Whether you plan to vote for Hillary, Bernie, Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich or any other options is irrelevant to this post. What I want to discuss is our response as Christians but more importantly as youth leaders raising the upcoming Christian generation. How we respond and IF we respond will determine how our students and young people view the political process, how they should act during an election cycle and most importantly how they should interact with people that they disagree with. So far I have seen 3 main responses from my Christian friends via social media and all three concern me:
1) I won’t enter the discussion because I don’t want to get in a political debate or fight with people.
This one concerns me because of the message it sends to our young people for the same reason not bringing up current issues, race relations, LGBT concerns or international injustices concerns me. By removing ourselves completely, we show our young people that this is something not worth fighting for or caring about. Not discussing something does not make it go away. In fact, by not discussing it with them, they are forced to have discussions with people who may not share the same faith values. The percentage of voting Americans is already scary low…we need to teach our children that voting is important and worth discussing. You not discussing does not mean the discussion does not happen. It just means you’ve removed yourself from being able to add maturity and a Christian frame-work for the discussion. We need more advocates for Christ when lines become blurred in the political landscape. This provides us with an awesome opportunity: a teachable moment to display how to have a civil conversation with someone who completely disagrees with us.
2) I don’t know who…but not ‘that guy’
This is the classic demonization technique…which may be our knee-jerk reaction because of how amoral a candidate seems. However, what this teaches our kids is that it’s more important to find something to stand against than finding something worth standing for. A big portion of fighting this impulse is personal study and research. If we teach our young people how integral their part is in the election of our national leader, then it behooves us to teach them how important it is for them to be well-educated on each and every one. Don’t rely on what this TV station says about a candidate or group because 9/10 they have vested interest in the opposite group. Instead- do your research, know where each person stands on the issues and form an opinion based off ole fashioned investigation. It gives you credibility and turns those debates into thoughtful discussions.
3) If ‘so and so’ get elected, I’m out
This one frightens me and I addressed it on Facebook not too long ago. It goes like this, “If Trump gets elected, I’m moving to Canada…or anywhere else.” The lesson this portrays is that ‘when the going gets tough, just quit’. Honest question here: Are we Christians or Americans first? I ask because for those of us born and raised in America; pledging allegiance to the flag and such has me being an ardent patriot. However, when does that get in the way of doing what Christ calls us to do? I’m fairly certain Jesus, the apostles, and early church leaders were appalled by what the Romans and even Jewish political leaders were doing in their countries. Yet they remained where they were in order to help people into a growing relationship with Christ. Fast forward to today: Do the American people still need Christ? My opinion is that if (insert candidate name here) gets elected President, we will need men and women of God to come to the states to speak hope into the situation more now than ever. -To speak hope into a nation reeling from moral ambiguity, social incompetence & racial prejudices. -To share Christ at a time when it is most needed in the history of our country.
* Ultimately, our country needs educated individuals dedicated to Christ who will take the time to wade into these contentious waters of politics in order to turn our nation towards Christ. So…in quick practical terms: Have a ‘Political Debate’ with your Youth group. Assign a different candidate to your kids; explain to them that although they may not like what they find, they must represent who they have been given. This will empower them to research but for a more personal identification. It may also help spark conversations on what we value most and which things we as Christians must stand up for. Don’t miss this opportunity. Don’t miss this teachable moment.