The elephant and the donkey in the room – Post Bulletin

“What do you think about the election?”

The question makes me choke on my coffee.

As I sip my French roast, making sure it passes down my esophagus and not my airway, I discern the intent of the question. Does the person really want to know what I think? Or is it a setup for him to tell me his opinion with an assumption that I’ll agree with him?

Etiquette says politics is off limits for polite conversation, but in today’s churches the fellowship time can be rife with that topic. I often deflect political questions with humor like, “I try not to think about the election,” or awkwardly change the subject because I don’t want to deal with the elephant and the donkey in the room.

If I don’t validate their political views, I’m often met with surprise. I confess on one occasion I angrily told someone that they should review the commandment about bearing false witness, but usually I just say the algorithm on your news feed differs from mine.

It shouldn’t be this way. Among the 12 disciples were Simon, a Zealot, and Matthew, a tax collector. The Zealots were a revolutionary group who worked against the government, while tax collectors worked for the government. Interestingly, in Matthew 10:2-4, Matthew, who was a tax collector, points out this difference more than any of the other Gospel writers.

In his book “Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides,” Scott Sauls says this is significant because “despite their opposing political viewpoints, Matthew and Simon were friends, and Matthew wants us to know this. ”

Matthew’s emphasis on a tax collector and a Zealot living in unity suggests a hierarchy of loyalties, Sauls says, meaning our loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom must exceed our loyalty to an earthly agenda. Ideally, we should feel at home with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith.

“If this isn’t our experience,” Sauls says, referencing Jesus’ most famous statement on politics, “then we may be rendering to Caesar what belongs to God.”

Pastor and theologian Timothy Keller, who has trained thousands of pastors and lay leaders through the Redeemer City to City organization, advises his students to not alienate their brothers and sisters with partisan politics.

“The longer it takes people to figure out where we stand on political parties,” Keller says, “in all likelihood the more faithfully we’re preaching Jesus.”

So, go ahead, ask me about the election. If I sense you’re interested in a partisan argument, I’ll be diplomatic and decline the debate. If you want a good faith exchange of ideas, you’ll learn that I don’t identify with the elephant or the donkey. I’m more of a political platypus who doesn’t fit in either party.

And there’s always the chance you’ll see coffee spurt out of my nose.

Dwight Boyum is a member of Salem Road Covenant Church.

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