Healing a ‘House Divided’
Do our country’s political divides present Christians with opportunities for the gospel?
This question can’t be answered simply, but we can at least consider how Christ-followers can reach our people, liberal and conservative alike, with His grace and truth.
To begin, let’s think a bit about the landscape. Many Americans are getting tired of having an extreme social agenda thrust on them. The data in recent studies imply that millions of us are weary of being told we are out-of-touch, ignorant, and intolerant because, among other things, we are disturbed by the idea that a heavily made-up man in a florid evening gown should be allowed to read a story to our small children.
These kinds of concerns have big political implications. Among 30-44 year-olds — the cohort of the electorate that’s raising children — support for the Democratic Party was, as recently as 2018, almost 20% higher than support for Republicans. In 2022, that higher level of support had fallen to a mere 4%.
This really shouldn’t be surprising. Less than 30% of Americans believe “drag queen story hours” are appropriate for young children. And more and more parents are pushing-back on the sexualization and “wokeism” of their children’s public educations.
This finding was confirmed in a nationwide survey published by the University of Southern California in October of last year. The study, titled “A House Divided? What Americans Really Think About Controversial Topics in Schools,” found that “adults think high school children should be assigned books on many controversial topics but oppose LGBT-themed books at all grade levels.” Remarkably, only 25% of “families with same-sex parents” want such books in elementary schools and only slightly more than 41% of these families want them in high school.
Perhaps most telling are the data on how Americans feel about the future of our country. An NBC News poll published late last month indicated that 71% of those surveyed believe the nation is “headed in the wrong direction.”
Whatever the ups-and-downs of the survey data, one thing is clear: Christians have a tremendous opportunity to reach across partisan divides and offer a message of hope to everyone. Here are some ideas about how we can talk with our family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues about Jesus in the context of our cultural disarray.
First, all of us share a moral sense. “The work of the law is written on our hearts,” Paul instructs us (Romans 2:15). “Work” is a good translation of the Greek — that might not sound significant, but the implications are. God has placed within each of us a deep sense of moral obligation. It works in our hearts and minds much as an engine powers a car. There is a natural understanding not only that such things as murder and theft are wrong but also that certain things are precious. For example, even the most hardened atheist will run after his child if the little one goes into the street.
This intuitive sense of duty and protection is a gift from our Creator. So, when it comes to politics, we can make arguments based on a common sense of interest. That doesn’t mean everyone will come to an agreement, but mutual respect can begin to grow. Think about the data noted earlier — even very liberal parents understand that introducing their children to sexual deviancy at a young age is unhealthy. As we talk with people who disagree with us about various issues, we can touch on something we all have in common — our love for our children. This can build friendship and, through it, a chance to share the gospel.
Second, when people are in need, they generally don’t care too much about partisanship. Maybe someone at work has recently lost a loved one. And maybe that same colleague is also an outspoken person of the Left whose disdain for conservative Christians is well-known. Bringing her a meal, attending the funeral, or simply sitting and listening, can break down walls. When she sees you as a real person, not a stereotype, and someone who is caring and whose love for Christ inspires compassion, not anger, His presence and His good news can be introduced meaningfully.
Finally, demeanor counts. I can get pretty indignant about things taking place in our society and about policymakers who advance ideas destructive to its well-being. But this is no excuse for being obnoxious, demeaning, or insulting. Many of Joe Biden’s policies are damaging to our country. Yet Scripture calls us both to respect and pray for our leaders, including those with whom we strongly disagree. And guarding our hearts against contempt and bitterness is needed if our prayers are to be effective, whether for President Biden or the guy next door with an “I Vote Pro-Choice” yard sign.
These things take patience. And they don’t mean that all conflict will suddenly dissolve into a puddle of good feeling or that we should stop advancing life, family, and religious liberty in public policy. Rather, what I’m talking about is a matter of the heart. Christians are not given the luxury of carrying grudges. Instead, we are to carry a cross (Luke 9:23) — denying our anger and resentment and, without compromising the truth, showing the love of Christ to even the most hostile of people. That’s what Jesus did. Let’s follow Him.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.