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Part 1: Is Unity Possible in An Election Season?

Sep 20, 2022Blog, Culture, Theology

Each November, the arrival of outdoor lights, Christmas trees and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” announces that it’s almost the most wonderful time of the year. If that’s true, what do all the yard signs in my neighborhood and mudslinging commercials announce? The least wonderful time of the year?

I’m joking. Kinda. I really love this country and take a lot of pride in being able to vote. I’m also a bit of an optimist, I tend to have a glass-half-full mindset and so I tend to find a candidate or two that I’m really hopeful about. The problem is, year over year, this process of exercising our incredible freedom to choose our leaders just gets uglier and uglier. My optimist spirit gets a little more crushed every time election season comes around. It’s not just because I feel let down or manipulated by politicians and political parties, though I do. It’s because I hate what it does to the rest of us.  

Now, since I’m clearly writing a blog post about politics, it’s important you know how I vote. That way you know whether to keep reading or whether to dismiss me as an idiot. I’m joking. Kinda.  This is the first thing I have to address: I reject the idea that all of us – millions of Americans with different backgrounds and beliefs and passions and fears – all neatly fit into two categories.  We’re all either conservative or we’re liberal, Democrat or Republican. And, whichever one we are, that’s the one that is 100% right about how things should be done. That’s absurd, right?  We’re all complicated beings and that complication reveals itself in a vast number of choices that reflect our personality and viewpoint. How we dress, what we drive, what music we listen to, what we like to eat, how we like to spend our free time…it’s all over the place. We’re unique about what we want out of life, what freedoms we care the most about, what problems we most think should be addressed. We’re unique in our approach to problem-solving, to conflict, to sacrifice, to budgeting, to our priorities. But somehow that uniqueness of expression doesn’t exist when it comes to how we believe we should be governed?  

I could go a long way down this path of thinking, but assuming you get what I’m saying let me just get to the point: I think we find far too much identity in political parties and the resulting tribalism is destructive to the unity that Jesus calls us to. I believe He invites us into something much larger and much better. I don’t just believe it, I know it, and I know it because it was modeled in the community He fostered. Take a quick look with me at a passage in the book of Matthew. It’s an easy passage to skim, but there’s something significant in there.

“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (Matthew 10:1-4). 

There’s something really interesting here. For the most part this is a list of names of the disciples. For the most part they’re all just sons and brothers, but there’s two disciples who got a little more detail. Matthew’s profession is mentioned, he’s a tax collector. And we’re told that Simon was a Zealot. Now that’s not just an adjective telling us that Simon was a really zealous guy. The Zealots were an aggressive political party-of-sorts who despised the Romans and also despised any Jews who cooperated with them.

Matthew cooperated with the government and Simon wanted insurrection. How is it possible that these two men could be part of the same community – for that matter, how could they be in the same room together – for such a long period of time? And why would Jesus want these two people in His inner circle, what was He trying to teach us?

Stay tuned for Thursday’s blog post, as we answer these questions and explore what Jesus is trying to teach us!