Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Politics and In-Laws

by Rev. Laura Barclay

Whatever your political party, chances are high that you have Republicans, Democrats, and possibly Independents in your family, whether you are aware of their affiliation or not. This is certainly the case among my relatives. When I was home over Easter, my husband and I had dinner with my mother and father, as well as his father and step-mother. For the first time, our two families endeavored into a deep discussion on religion and politics. Let me stress that our religious and political views are many and varied. I shifted nervously in my seat, hoping we wouldn’t hit a verbal wall as topics related to immigration, health care, and racism were broached.

I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall, but I’m glad I didn’t hold my breath.

In the middle of all of the discussions and negotiations, we kept finding ways to affirm our respect for one another. Perhaps it was the shared underlying belief in our discussions that we were all made in the image of God. “I don’t understand where you’re coming from” became “How much can we agree on?” Eventually we experimented with how our Congress works with statements like, “If we were to introduce a bill on immigration, on what topics could we agree to start forming statements?” The conversation ended with laughter and a solid agreement on the need for term limits and honesty about mistakes, corruption and greed on both sides of the aisle.

Over the course of the last year, we have watched heated ideological differences lead to yelling, spitting, throwing bricks into government offices, growing militia movement numbers, and open-carry rallies that aren’t even about gun rights. We’ve watched some Republicans criticize a Democratic President for negotiating a new START nuclear treaty with Russia, though President Obama used the same terms for negotiating as Republican President Reagan in the 1980s. Conversely, President Bush was never heartily celebrated by many Democrats for his commitment to global AIDS relief or declaring certain environmentally endangered areas to be protected near the end of his presidency.

If we stop seeing the underlying image of God in our neighbor, regardless of political party or religious belief, then we fall into the trap of belittling them or inciting violence against them. Perhaps if both parties could find a way to humanize the other side and figure out what we can agree on, rather than boiling the sum of a person down to a list of issues, we could all sit around a table and laugh heartily like family.


  1. Great post, Laura!

    Family and politics has always been dicey at my house.

    I've been thinking a lot about the way we dehumanize anyone we oppose (in politics and church as well). Perhaps one of our greatest callings as faithful people is to work to recognize and bless the humanity in everyone. It certainly beats throwing sweet potatoes at your cousin who votes differently from you.

  2. Patrick,

    "Perhaps one of our greatest callings as faithful people is to work to recognize and bless the humanity in everyone."

    Wonderfully said! Thanks for the comment!