Are you a politically active Christian?
For our purposes, let’s say you qualify as politically active if you have shared between one and 247 emails or social media posts with political themes in the last week.
For those of you who are closer to the 247 end of that range – whose watercooler conversations and Facebook posts are all about selling your candidate or bashing the other one – let me start with a practical political observation.
Take a moment to pull out a blank sheet of paper and look carefully at it.
That sheet of paper includes the complete list of all the people your posts and emails have persuaded to vote for your candidate.
I can assure you that you have never crossed paths with a human who decided to vote for a candidate because they were wowed by your social media posts. In fact, your posts might have pushed people away from your candidate.
But there’s an even bigger problem: Your posts about politics can push people away from Christ.
When you wade into politics with huge passion, loud volume and heavy certainty, you are going to offend somebody. And once you offend somebody, it is hard to get them to listen to you on other matters.
The Bible warns us, “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city” (Proverbs 18:19).
If you offend people over politics, you may lose the opportunity to talk to them about something much more important – the love of Christ. If you wear people out talking about your candidate, they won’t want to hear about your Savior.
When I offend someone, I want it to be over something that truly matters. I don’t want to push my agenda about some side issue (and no matter how important politics may be, it is a side issue) and lose the right to be heard about things of eternal significance.
The nature of political discussion increases the level of risk. Politics in the United States right now is very much an us-versus-them endeavor.
We don’t have Democrats and Republicans fighting side by side for our country; they are fighting each other.
We don’t have political leaders working together to attack our nation’s problems; they are attacking each other.
In most political conversations, both sides spend the bulk of the time screaming at each other.
If you tuned in to the most recent presidential debate, or if you have glanced at your Twitter feed since then, you know what that screaming sounds like.
When we add our voices to the screaming, when we jump into the us-versus-them fiasco with Jesus on our side, we do something dangerous.
Intentionally or not, we communicate to those who disagree with us that they are against Jesus, and that Jesus is against them.
A passionate Christian Republican says, “I’m about cutting taxes, securing our borders, the right to bear arms – and Jesus.” It is strongly implied that Jesus is for all the things that Republican is for, and if you want Jesus, you have to have him as part of a Republican package.
A passionate Christian Democrat says, “I’m about healthcare for all, gun control, addressing climate change – and Jesus.” It is strongly implied that Jesus is for all the things that Democrat is for, and if you want Jesus, you have to have him as part of a Democratic package.
When you passionately voice your political opinions, at the very least you cause nonbelievers who disagree with your opinions to question your reliability.
They will be less likely to consider you to be a credible source regarding matters of life-and-death importance.
At worst, you lead them to decide that if they have to have Trump and Jesus together, or Clinton and Jesus together, then they won’t have Jesus.
Are you free to speak your mind about political matters? Absolutely. Should you speak up when political decisions have ethical and spiritual ramifications? Absolutely.
But be careful about how you discuss politics, and how often. Realize that your political talk can have unintended consequences on the spiritual lives of the people who hear you.
The more obnoxious you are in talking about politics, the more people will tune you out in matters of faith.
The next time you are about to corner your neighbor, forward an email or post a rant, pause to think about it first. Your attempts to lure people to your political party can push them away from Christ.
Blake McKinney is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and the author of “Refresh: A Moment with God in the Middle of Your Day.” A version of this article originally appeared on his blog, Intersections, and is used with permission. He and his wife, Gayla, also write a marriage blog, Same Team. You can follow him on Twitter @JBlakeMcKinney.
Editor’s note: McKinney’s previous column, “Getting Some Perspective This Election Season,” can be read here.