Thursday, April 02, 2015

Be kind

Before I throw myself into the (rather more important) business of the annual commemoration of the Lord's death and resurrection, here is a brief thought about the general election campaign.  I don't particularly want to comment on what's happening 'out there' in the wide world of national politics.  Rather, I want to say something about how you and I - especially if we are Christians - need to conduct ourselves during the campaign.  In so far as this is a rebuke, I promise you that it is directed at me and my past behaviour at least as much as at anyone else.

Here are a few things I think we need to bear in mind:

1.  We don't know people's motives.  It is easy for us to infer motives, especially when we are talking about people we don't know well.  For example, 'David Cameron only wants to help the rich'.  Does he?  That's an inference, I suppose, from Conservative economic policy, but I think we would do well to assume the best of people.  I find it helpful to think of people I actually do know who hold particular political and economic views; it is much harder to just assume that they are evil!  So, for example, my left-leaning friends would probably not say 'Daniel Blanche only wants to see the rich getting richer', even though I broadly agree with Dave's economic policies.

2.  Cynicism is a deadly trap.  I know that politicians give us lots of reasons to be cynical, but the way cynicism works reminds me of the conspiracy theorist I met who couldn't think for long about any subject without linking it in to his skewed worldview.  Cynicism becomes a habit of thought which colours everything and prevents us from seeing any good or nobility in anything.

3.  Tribalism is easy.  It's easy to get into a frame of mind where we think everything 'our side' says and does is right, whilst 'the others' are wrong about everything.  Really, what are the odds of this being the case?  Isn't it much more likely that we could all learn from one another?

4.  Life is complicated.  If we think we have a simple solution to any of the big political or economic problems of today, it probably just means we don't understand the issues.  Let's be a bit more patient with those on all sides of the political spectrum who are trying to wrestle with them.

5.  For Christians, our unity in Christ trumps our political divisions.  I imagine all Christians would agree in principle, but already this morning I've read a couple of articles - and more painfully comments from friends - essentially saying that I can't be a Christian because I am likely to vote Conservative.  Of course, they didn't say this about me - but in critiquing political leaders in strong language like 'clearly he doesn't understand Christianity given his evil politics' you implicitly unchurch all those who agree with that particular leader or his policies.  Let's be careful about that.

6.  Robust debate must have limits.  Let's just speak well of one another, and of politicians of all stripes.  Let's at least give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that we all want what's best.  I know that might be hard, given strong disagreement.  I know that sometimes it's really hard to see how someone can possibly think that.  But we can disagree within parameters of civility.  And indeed, if we are Christians we can disagree whilst showing honour to our leaders (and potential leaders) and love to one another.

I suppose it all boils down to this: let's be kind to one another, shall we?

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