What I Hope to Teach My Children About Politics

As this very polarizing political season comes to a close, I have often thought about my children, who are ages 8, 5, and 3. I’m very thankful that they are so young and don’t really understand what has been going on in our country these past nine months or so.

I wanted to write this down, so I would never forget the thoughts and feelings I had while processing the unprecedented scandal, deceit, division, and mudslinging from each candidate — which has been amplified by the posts and ensuing arguments on social media.

What’s the likelihood that this election was just a random, horrible fluke? I hope and pray that future Americans — especially when our children become adults — will be kinder and more unified. But in the event that the political climate is the same or worse when my children become voting age, here are the things I hope to teach and model for them:

1. No political party is perfect or has all the answers.

Over the years, I have found that there are flaws in every single political party. Many people will remain loyal to their party affiliation and nothing will ever change that. Each party might have started with noble ideals, but I think it’s safe to say, if we’re being honest, that each has compromised or even become corrupted by money and power. None of them — not even  a third party — has the perfect solutions for the problems in our country. This can be a very disappointing realization, but there is hope!

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When I take my mind off the temporary things of this world, such as politics, and place them on that which is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18), it changes my perspective. It stops me from worrying about which candidate is going to win or which proposition is going to pass. This perspective reminds me to pray that God’s “kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). It reminds me where my hope comes from.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5

2. Politics are important, but politics aren’t everything.

In the midst of feeling deeply troubled by this election and agonizing about whom to vote for, I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit, which was telecast at our church. In hearing from such amazing speakers as Melinda Gates, Jossy Chacko, Danielle Strickland, and Wilfredo De Jesus, I realized that despite what is happening in our current political process, we should not lose sight of the fact that God is still working and moving throughout the world for His glory. Brave, compassionate people are making great strides in combatting disease and poverty, and the Gospel is still spreading and changing lives!

Politics create policies that can change the direction of any country. This is important. But even when that process seems discouraging or hopeless, remember that there are real people making a real difference in the world — and you can be one of them.

A photo by frank mckenna. unsplash.com/photos/EgB1uSU5tRA

3. We should always be learning.

There is wisdom in waiting to comment on something you read online. Know that there is always something new to learn — whether it’s developing facts about a particular situation, the multiple layers of an issue, or the perspective of an entire people group a certain issue might affect.

Take a stance of humility. Study. Read. Talk to people from different walks of life. Try your best to understand the issues, but don’t become consumed by them. PRAY and ask God to help you. In the end, you will have hopefully kept friendships long after the election is over. And you’ll vote for candidates, platforms, and policies that best align with your values and convictions.

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Photo by Theresa Thomson on Flickr.

4. Always treat people with respect. Relationships are important.

People are passionate about their country, and that can be a good thing. Where it becomes a negative is when the passion people have for their country overrides the love and respect they have for their fellow man. Many people are certain they are right (righteous, even) in their convictions. Political opinions are shaped by many different factors, and you may not ever change someone’s mind. But oftentimes, the reason people get angry is because someone does not agree with them. There is no need to engage in a conversation with a person who is using abusive, combative, or disrespectful language, and there is no reason to get upset if someone has a different opinion than you do.

James 1:19-20 says,

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

You can voice your opinion respectfully, but genuinely seek to understand someone else’s point of view. One of the best ways to do that is by asking questions. Then, your conversation becomes a dialog, rather than a diatribe.

It is better to be a light than to be right…and it’s always right to be a light.

5. Do your own due diligence.

Why do we allow the people who entertain us in television, film, music, and sports to have such a strong influence on what we think and how we vote? I know celebrities mean well and want to use their platform to fight for a candidate or cause they believe in, but how much do we possibly have in common with people who make Scrooge McDuck kind of money? It’s illogical to believe something because a group of people we find funny, entertaining or attractive says so.

It’s also tempting to latch onto a trending sound byte or a narrative that keeps getting repeated in the media. We sometimes believe it to be true, without doing any research for ourselves. Or we research from sources that will only serve to support our preconceived notions. Videos can be edited. Quotes can be taken out of context. Each political party is guilty of this because sometimes the goal is to win, no matter the cost. But there are always two sides to every story. And oftentimes there are multiple layers or perspectives on an issue.

In all situations, may we seek to discover and support what is right…not necessarily what is popular.

It is your great honor and responsibility to take the time to investigate and read as much as you can — from reliable, unbiased sources  — in order to make the most informed decision possible.

6. Prioritize your values.

Decide what are the most important things to you politically. Write it down. Is it the right to life for the unborn, freedom of religion, and affordable health care for all? Is it education, secure borders, or fighting corporate greed? How important are values such as honesty, integrity, and kindness?

As you investigate each candidate or proposition, keep asking yourself, “What are the top five things I value the most and want to see in my country?” Pray often (I know; I keep saying that) and circle back to your list of priorities in order to stay grounded.

7. Never, ever lose hope.

Keep praying. Keep voting. Never let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t count. Even if there is a slight chance they are right, vote anyway. Men and women have given their all so that you and I would have this right and privilege. And remember that, ultimately, our hope comes from the Lord.

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge…” Psalm 73:28

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