I read another Christian book that didn’t piss me off! Aren’t you all so excited for me! Not when you find out what it was about! I really loved it. Not just loved it, respected it, because it is one of those books that articulated for me something I’ve been feeling for a long time without being able to put my finger on. And don’t think I don’t resent her a little for being younger than me, too.
Raised Right by Alisa Harris is about one young woman’s transformation from unthinking political drone to warrior for compassion, a transformation I have yet to complete. And she lives in New York City! I am seriously jealous of this chick.
Anyway, the point of the book: Christians’ involvement in politics should be about one thing and one thing only: Compassion. Party doesn’t matter. Even single-issue positions are immaterial. Are you in politics to make sure that compassion is shown to the least of these the way Christ would show it? Are you behaving in the political arena the way Christ behaved, showing temper only when necessary, showing kindness and gentleness at all other times?
She addresses in particular the tone of the 2008 election, when Republicans and Democrats seemed especially vitriolic in their attitudes and interactions. And I have written about this before as well, but in a more general way. I agree with Ms. Harris in her assessment of the national attitude during that election and I believe the problem has gotten worse since.
We all sound so impossibly sure of ourselves. As though we have everything figured out, and we laugh at those poor idiots on the other side of the debate. Because if they were real Christians, if they were listening to God and reading their Bible like they should, they would see that we are right.
This self-congratulatory, self-righteous, self-centered view only feeds the 24-hour yell cycle on the news networks and costs us the ability to see other people as smart, important and worthy of our time. We cannot see others the way Jesus sees them, and us, if the sin of pride crowds our ability to feel compassion. We cannot do any good in our world if we cannot see beyond the end of our own noses and really understand someone different from us.
Because if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I am not at all sure of much of anything. And I change my mind all the time. My favorite saying is: “A wise man changes his mind, a fool never does.” So maybe the key to being Christlike in politics, having compassion for others, and changing our tone is to admit that maybe we don’t know everything. And then act like it. Ask questions instead of make points. Really listen instead of automatically agreeing or disagreeing. Take a deep breath and remember it’s not worth the relationship just to be right.
On a personal level, and on a national level, I believe it is worth the discomfort of being wrong and feeling unsure if it grounds us in compassion. I believe that changing our tone will be worth the unity we could bring to our country.