I am not passionate about politics…at all. Of course, I hold a general ideology and perspective on how I think our country ought to be governed, but I find more value in pouring time and energy into fostering my relationships with the people around me who actually impact my life on a daily basis, than I do staying up to date on the nuances and intricacies of national or international politics. So, when I say that I sit here, a week after election day, saddened and disappointed, it has nothing to do with the projected winner. I’m frustrated by the inflammatory rhetoric I saw flying from both sides. I’m disheartened by everyone’s apparent inability to empathize with people who think differently than they do, or to even see a reason to.
“Those are racist AF states…” That is one of a slew of messages posted on a group chat I have going with some friends in the days following the election, as they watched states on the map turn red early on. The whole state…racist, and racists are enemies to be eliminated. Rev. Ross Engel addresses this in this week’s episode of Ringside, “by reducing them to enemies, you can discount everything they say…You don’t matter because you’re the enemy anyways, so I don’t have to interact with you or your ideas. That allows us to not actually dialogue with people who think differently than we do. Why would I acknowledge that my enemy and I may have something in common? That label keeps us from having to give credibility to people who think differently than we do.”
“Many fear that some are trying to steal the election. So, join me in praying that the will of God be done, pray that the enemies of God be quieted, and that all their plans will be put to nothing,” Rev. Franklin Graham tweeted last week. Enemies of God? Rather than seeing our fellow citizens as all wanting what is best for the country, but disagreeing on how to get there, we’re being coached to see them as our enemies? That’s dangerous language, and just a dark and unhelpful approach to living life. Another group message comes through, “Like, the number of dumbasses still voting for Trump after the shit show of the last four years is just so disappointing.” Meanwhile, Rev. Joel Hess on Ringside says, “To say someone you disagree with is evil or even ignorant, that is not helpful to the conversation.”
On November 9, 2016, I was in a coworker’s office as she sat with tears in her eyes, shaking, on the verge of hyperventilating because the election results were in and the next President of the United States had been announced. She was distraught as she was hit by the realization that her country was full of so many racist, misogynistic people who would vote “that man” into office. I remember asking this New York native living in Los Angeles if she had any idea what life in rural America was like. What are the major day-to-day concerns? What sorts of policies are most important to them? What are the things they view as essential to increase the quality of their lives and care for their families? If she truly wanted to understand what had just happened, she couldn’t do so without putting in the work to figure out what actually motivated these people. What wasn’t helpful, let alone true, was to blatantly write everyone off as racist. It seems we have not learned much in the last four years.
The broad, comprehensive labels that we apply to the “other side” ignore the complexities of human life, and the multitude of factors that influence the decisions that people make. Characterizing everyone who is not squarely in your camp as an enemy does not make you virtuous, it makes you lazy and divisive. It sends a message to the world that you don’t care enough about people to even try to understand them, let alone engage in any sort of respectful dialogue or debate. We need to stop viewing each other as enemies, and start listening to what people actually have to say. Disagree…vehemently disagree. But do so based on someone’s argument, not your assumptions.
This article is a brief examination of one of several topics discussed during this week’s episode of Ringside with the Preacher Men. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Ross Engel, Rev. Paul Koch, and Tyler the Intern as they duke it out over being enemies, the 24 hour news cycle, the end days, and more on the full Ringside with the Preacher Men episode, “Be Careful Condemning God’s Enemy”.
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