“If you are not with me, then you are my enemy.” ~Anakin Skywalker
As Star Wars fans know, at the end of “Stars Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” Anakin Skywalker turns evil, joins the “Dark Side,” and sets out to destroy his former Jedi Master, Obi-Wan. Just as these two begin to duel, Anakin chides Obi-Wan, “If you are not with me, then you are my enemy.” Such a statement illustrates well much of the current American political atmosphere. Unfortunately, it illustrates not just the polarization among Democrats and Republicans in general, but it describes Christians who politically disagree. But it’s more than just mere disagreement among Christians. The political disagreements have led to personal attacks, and much like Skywalker’s comment, it has led to an attitude of “you vs. me” in the church. I call this political posture “Skywalker Syndrome.” As we go forward into 2020 and approach yet another presidential election, Christians, although disagreeing, need to keep in mind the faith we share and strive for unity.
The “Skywalker Syndrome” is the idea that describes an American’s posture when a political disagreement occurs. A person who suffers from this syndrome sees whoever challenges or disagrees with him on any given political point, especially in regard to the presidential election, as not “with him”– as an enemy.
Some Christians may object that they are viewing those who disagree with them as an enemy. “We are just having good, political debate,” they say. Good, political debate is great (even among Christians), but the rhetoric that is often employed betrays this goal. At the end of 2019, the blogosphere was rife with Christians lodging political bombs at each other. Granted, some were respectful, highly engaging, and thoughtful. There were, however, some that were far less than this.
If we were to include personal communication, whether by email or on social media, in our analysis, the Skywalker Syndrome is much more pronounced. During the 2016 election cycle, and now the 2020 cycle, Christians who have questioned the legitimacy of certain candidates have been and are continuously called “traitors,” “liberals,” “un-patriotic,” “crazy,” and so on. Likewise, some Christians have responded to these ridicules similarly, calling some “compromisers” and “hypocrites.”
What should we do about this? To borrow from James, the brother of Jesus, “from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (Jam. 3:10; NASB). Christians must find a more positive way to engage in politics with each other. The tongue, as James mentions in the context, has the ability to set fires–to destroy a person. It has the ability to divide. But God has called his body, the church, to be united, even while disagreeing, whether on politics or otherwise.
I am far from perfect when politically engaging brothers and sisters in Christ. God knows I have failed. But here are some tips that have helped me be more unifying and constructive when discussing politics. Hopefully, they will help you, too.
- Remember you are talking to someone made in God’s image who has intrinsic value. Thus, avoid malice, ridicule, and personal attacks. Focus on the issue, not the person.
- Moreover, the person whom you are talking to is a brother or sister in Christ. You have a strong, common bond of faith, so “love one another.”
- Keep God’s Kingdom as the priority and not the kingdom of this world. Yes, Christians are to be involved with worldly kingdoms, but their allegiance is to The King and their citizenship is in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22).
- Keep your emotions in check. If you feel yourself beginning to go off the deep end, take a break.
- Keep in mind that as much as we may love America, it is not the alpha and omega of existence. Worldly kingdoms come and go, but Jesus’ kingdom lasts forever.
- Avoid viewing politics/life through the lens of apocalypticism. Remember that politics is not the end of the world. God is in control no matter who is or is not elected.
- Focus upon “mere Christianity.” The core set of Christian doctrines are what hold us all Christians together.
- Love one another and do your best to maintain unity through love.
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Dr. Peter Rasor