• Dana L. Butler

Some words about politics and loving Jesus

Oh dang.

The crazy that ensued on my Facebook wall yesterday. It was somethin’ elsey’all.

For any of you who don’t follow me on Facebook, suffice it to say that I shared a very thoughtful (non-inflammatory — or at least, I didn’t foresee it being inflammatory) article by a woman who’s an adoptive mama, loves Jesus, is pro-life, and plans to vote Democrat in the upcoming election.

Her article questioned, among other things, the wisdom of Christians who may be planning to vote for Trump because he (for now) says he’s pro-life, and a number of my conservative friends quickly weighed in (on my Facebook wall) with their opinions.

Some were kinder than others.

And I kinda just sat back and quietly marveled while acquaintances accused and condemned (quite literally — to a fate worse than hell, one person wrote), and my friends who lean slightly more to the political left went to bat for my character and my integrity and my heart.

To you few: thank you. Your words meant more to me than I can tell you.

(And actually, to be fair, I should clarify that I believe several of my friends genuinely didn’t intend to be argumentative.)

Here’s the thing, though. I have so many things I want to say after yesterday’s conversations, one of which is that I’m not offended by my more conservative friends, even the ones whose comments came across as argumentative. I get it, or at least I’m pretty sure I do.

I’ve been there.

I spent the entirety of my adult life until just the last few years as a registered Republican voter. As someone who was (and is) passionately pro-life, the abortion issue was essentially THE pivotal factor that determined how I’d vote. So yeah. Pretty much, straight Republican ticket forever and ever, amen.

I thought.

Over the last few years though, my opinions have become a little more fluid and a little more nuanced. I’ve developed friendships with people whose experiences have been radically different than mine, people who see important issues from differing angles, whose votes might’ve completely opposed mine in prior elections.

There’s something I’m learning lately: I don’t have it all figured out.

I’m learning to sit, both with people and before the Lord, and let Him loosen my grip on some of my conclusions. I’m learning that loving people well often means suspending my assumptions about their beliefs, values, and journeys; asking questions, and learning from them.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely go to my grave saying it: I firmly believe that if Jesus wanted His Church to be on the same pages, at the same times, about the same issues, then we’d all be just that — uniform. Politically and theologically homogenous.

But y’all, He didn’t. He didn’t make us that way.

I think one of the most confusing things is how on Earth people who legitimately, radically, wholeheartedly love and live for Jesus, can be continually before the Lord over their political views, yet come to such radically differing viewpoints on huge issues like abortion, homosexual marriage, care for the poor, immigration, etc.

Why did He design His Bride this way? Why does He allow so many conflicting perspectives among those who love Him? Doesn’t Jesus want unity within the church? I fully believe He does.

And this is what I think: He’s after something deeper, y’all.

He’s after our depths. He’s after the subterranean transformative work that happens when we choose to learn from our brothers and sisters, over hanging onto a need to be right.

He’s after all the ways Love expands itself within us when we set our opinions aside for a minute and learn to really listen. When we listen to understand another’s heart, rather than with a primary objective of making ourselves understood.

I think I’ve said here before that to really be present to another person, you have to listen to them with a degree of openness that permits you to be impacted. To be affected by their story. Maybe even to be changed by it.

To be clear, what I’m not saying is that in order to love well, your opinions must be changed to line up with a differing point of view. Though this might happen occasionally, it’s not the point.

What I am saying is that maybe what’s changed, what’s expanded, is your heart toward the one(s) with whom you disagree.

I think unity is about humility, y’all. It’s about the beauty Jesus carves into the deepest corners of our hearts when we get quiet and offer one another the gift of our true presence. When we join hearts across denominational and political lines for the sake of conveying Jesus’ heart to the world.

When we can look at people whose views differ dramatically from our own, and say, “I need you. I need your heart, your story.”

Recently in Facebook Land, I’ve been somewhat indirectly accused of not having thought through or conferred extensively with the Holy Spirit regarding my decision to vote for Hillary. This is interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which being that I never said, and am still not saying, that I necessarily plan to vote for her. I’m honestly still undecided, other than my certainty that I personally cannot vote for Trump.

Anyway. So, since I’m learning that this doesn’t go without saying, can I just tell you, my friends, that I have agonized over this decision? I have prayed and wrestled and lost sleep, and I’ve explored issues from angles I didn’t even know existed.

Also: If you are a full-on, right-leaning, card-carrying Republican who loves Jesus, I believe you’ve walked a road of similar depth, one of much prayer and consideration. Your process, passions, opinions, and perspectives are valid.

I might disagree with you on a number of issues, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need you, and it certainly doesn’t give me the right to be unkind, to be condescending, to jump to conclusions about you, or to call into question whether you’ve put thought and prayer into your conclusions.

Goodness gracious. Who you are and how you feel and how you got to where you are now are so, so important.

For real.

And the greatest thing is that I don’t have to figure out why you love Jesus and yet are on a different political or theological page than I am. 

It’s straight up not. my. job! This is so freeing! Gah!

I get to simply enjoy you, honor your heart and your journey, and allow my own heart to be expanded as I {hopefully, imperfectly} love you. As I learn from you in all these places where we differ.

And we get to have conversations and share our takes on politics and life with new perspectives, open hearts toward one another, and an attitude of humility. We can learn to engage from a place of security in Jesus, void of any sense of being threatened by another’s differing viewpoint.

We can enter these dialogues not with a need to be right, not with an objective to necessarily to make ourselves understood, but with a desire to learn from one another.

It’s epic, you guys. Just epic — this invitation into love. Into His heart.

Last thing — I promise:

Within the Christian faith, there is so much mystery. There are questions. There are things we can search out, and things we’ll never understand, and every bit of that is okay. This means I can look at you, with your different political stance or theological viewpoint, and value and validate your journey and your perspective.

I don’t have to wrap my mind around how you got there to acknowledge that your journey to there is legit.

Ya know?

Okay. I’m done now. Whew.

Thanks for loving me, y’all, and for listening. Truly. It means more to me than I can tell you.

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