Today I began a project to prove that younger adults can, in fact, discuss politics in a religious setting in a more civil way than our parents can. I know it sounds crazy. After all, it’s an election year. Turn on any cable news station and you’ll find the political rhetoric is getting ramped up a few notches in lieu of the upcoming Presidential election. Candidates accuse one another of all sorts of shortcomings. Networks heighten the drama by putting intense spin on these stories and then broadcasting them across a 24-hour cycle of never-ending emotional diatribes from pundits and analysts. While I find much of this to be theater, the saddest part of this equation happens in the shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and churches across American–arguments break out fueled by the as seen on TV rhetoric.
It is in this spirit that I decided to coax some young adults (late 20s early 30s) into a project idea that I’ve had for sometime. Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll talk about a variety of political issues. From the outset we know we will not always agree–some in the group may never agree. But the point of this project is not to agree or convert anyone to another ideology. We’re setting out to prove that it is possible to engage one another in passionate conversation, agree or disagree, and do all of this in the spirit of Christian love that ultimately edifies us all in the process. Therefore, we’re beginning the project not with issues, but rather in studying how we talk about issues. The hope is we’ll alter the terms that will guide our discussion once we get to actual issues in a few weeks.
Below you’ll find my outline for leading the discussion for Session 1: Beginning the Journey, Setting the Rules, and Discussing Labels
I. Begin the Journey
- What has been your experience of political discussion around family dinners? Church groups? Friends?
- How do you get your news? Do you prefer articles online or cable news reports?
- Just and FYI: I’m a self-proclaimed Independent who’s a reformed Democrat (for example, I’m anti-war, pro-life, and anti death penalty; I believe in welfare insofar as it helps meet basic needs but I think conservative economics is the most fiscally responsible thing to do on a national level; I think we have to protect rights of minorities, I believe in gay marriage, and I also think states often know what’s best for citizens in their area because it’s contextually informed; and I don’t want the government telling me what to do as a pastor under any circumstances)
II. Setting Rules
- Anyone is free to contact me personally if they feel offended by anything we discuss. I’m more than happy to hear the concern and I’m even willing to shut the whole project down if I feel like we can’t achieve our goal of upholding edifying discussions grounded in Christian love.
III. Discussing Labels
- What do the terms liberal and conservative mean to you?
- Would you label yourself as 100% liberal or 100% conservative? How can these terms be problematic?
Next Week: Session 2: What does it mean to be civil in our discussing political topics and how can we learn from the mistakes of others?