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12 May 2017

When politics gets personal...

When politics gets personal...

Kit Powney is campaign communications associate at Tearfund.

Did you catch this article on the BBC this week?

I have to admit I had a little giggle at some of the political posters in the video and I do enjoy political satire, which is doing overtime now we are full swing into the election campaigns. From Twitter exploding over party leaders eating food, to awkward photos with people on their doorsteps, or reading to children, you don't have to look far to see our leaders being mocked. 

However, this got me thinking about what my response should be to those that I engage with who have different political views and values. I mean, of course I know I'm in the right (because me and Jesus have a special connection, obvs). But in all seriousness, sometimes I'm so passionate about certain policies and situations that if someone else doesn't agree, I can get frustrated and it's tempting to move from banter to a more heated conversation that has potential to turn into a personal attack. 

It's inevitable we are all going to meet people and read headlines and social media posts over the next couple of weeks that we don't agree with. We might feel tempted to dive right in with the top five reasons why that person is 100 per cent wrong and I'm 100 per cent right.

So what do we do? Look to Jesus.

Classic Sunday school answer, I know, but Jesus showed us a different way to disagree, one that was full of love and grace. We see it when he meets people and or finds himself in situations that aren't right – his words are not lovey-dovey and soft, they call out and challenge a situation as clear as day. But, crucially, in a way that is for the best and builds up that person. Rather than insulting, ridiculing and isolating, he chooses his words carefully, but uses them firmly. While his challenges to the rulers of the time were excoriating and occasionally violent – turning the tables in the temple springs to mind - they were designed to highlight where the Pharisees were deviating from God's character, not to undermine the value of those he disagreed with. When we choose to move from disagreement to ridicule and insult, we choose to isolate, we choose to build a boundary between us and 'them' and can be tempted to see ourselves as superior. 

However, Jesus didn't call us to set up splintered communities based on what we value and believe: he told us regardless of it all to "love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12:31). There are no conditions or footnotes to that. It's not: "Love your neighbour so long as you agree on everything and have the same political leanings." Instead, Jesus actually broadens the meaning of neighbour by calling us to "love our enemy" in Matthew 5:43-44. 

So over the next couple of weeks as we get ready for another whirlwind in British politics, and as we prepare for whatever else the year throws at us, let's choose to engage with each other in a way that stays true to our own political convictions, but also chooses to see and treat people as we are called to, with love for our neighbour.

Image: CC Nina Strehl