Finding High Ground During the Election Cycle

a reflection from Bishop John Harvey Taylor‘s Facebook page, shared with permission

As others have said, Justices Ginsburg and Scalia have a lot to teach us about how to be gracious to one another when passions are running hot about politics and policy. Agreeing about virtually nothing on the high court, they managed to stay high on the same elephant, friends and fellow world travelers and opera lovers forever. In their memory, some things in the run-up to the coming clash of elephant and donkey for when it spills over onto social media and especially my Facebook page.

If you read a criticism of Biden or Trump, they don’t need you to rise to their defense. Neither is reading your Facebook page or mine. They will never know. They don’t care. Besides, you won’t change anyone’s mind. If you are like me, you have almost never changed anyone’s minds about politics.

That means:

We’re actually here to learn from one another. To expand our horizons by absorbing other perspectives. “Tell me more about why you think that way.” We can even learn from one another’s rage. “While I don’t agree, I appreciate your passion! I’ll have to think more about that before commenting.” And when we do comment, better not to rise to the ad hominem challenge.

Because:

It’s usually better to stick to the what rather than the who. If someone is for income tax cuts, I could say they’re greedy. Or I could express concern about trillion-dollar deficits and our obligation as a national community to take care of one another. If someone is for immigration reform, I could say they’re for open borders and hate America. Or I could write about stable labor markets and the need for nations to have defensible borders. If I find myself saying “you” too much in my comment, I maybe be veering into dangerous territory.

And when:

Someone attacks one of my friends, uses profanity, or tries to visit the sins of any politician on an individual (“You Biden/Trump supporters liberals/conservatives are all bums and weirdos; vote for him, and you’re part of the problem”), as boss of this page, my finger’s going to be itching for the delete button.

By the same token, resist the impulse to construe an attack on your candidate as an attack on you. And I don’t care if someone else started it. That excuse for incivility expired in fourth grade. Remember that we’re not changing anything by arguing on social media. This just doesn’t count — except in one way.

At our best, we are teaching one another. Like Ginsberg and Scalia, we do it for the sake of the doing. For the dialogue itself. Since outcomes are not up for grabs, we can afford to put community and relationships first. Because whenever relationships suffer or break, mutual learning and affection cease, and Christ weeps.

[photo: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, via Associated Press]

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