By Chris Palusky, Bethany’s President and CEO
It seems that America’s elections are becoming more and more divisive. And this year has definitely continued that trend.
The rhetoric is intense. Both political parties say their opponents represent an existential threat to American values. A 2020 Brown University political study found that the U.S. is polarizing faster than other democracies around the world.
A recent poll showed that 56% of voters expect an outbreak of violence to follow in the wake of the election. With a background in crisis prevention (perhaps better titled “crisis anticipation”), I fully understand how those voters feel. Trust me, I’m a natural skeptic. But I am encouraged by the staff at Bethany Christian Services. Because of our faith-motivated convictions and values, we believe in civil discourse and the calling from God to love our neighbors.
This moment is an opportunity for the Christian church. While the division around us is escalating, we have been called by God to be political peacemakers.
Christians must strive to follow God’s instructions for engaging in and responding to politics: We are called to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). We are called to pray for government leaders and all those in authority, no matter if we voted for them or not (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
We must steward our relationships by choosing to love everybody, always. I like how Bob Goff puts it: “Loving the neighbors we don't understand takes work and humility and patience and guts." In other words, loving the supporter of a candidate we oppose, in this crazy world we’re living in, takes work and humility and patience and guts.
In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If we at Bethany, a body made up of people from a diverse array of political persuasions, can come together in to advance our mission, then perhaps America can unite too. May the world know Christians are different by how we respond to the challenges of our time with love and unity, compassion and kindness, and trust in God.
Some use Scripture to wrongly teach that Christians should not be involved in politics. That’s not true at all. Rev. Eugene Cho is right when he says, “Politics influence policies which impact people.” And Christians are certainly called to care about people. The Scriptures tell us we are to be active citizens of the earthly nation that we live in, including voting and paying taxes (Romans 13:1-7).
I lead a nonpartisan organization, where our first priority is serving people. While we do not endorse any political candidates, we do work with thousands of the individuals who are affected by U.S. policies. With more than 400,000 children in the foster care system, millions of refugees worldwide, and countless neighbors struggling under the weight of a global pandemic and its collateral damage, we believe working with governments at all levels helps address the greatest crises of our time.
Our staff—located across the nation and in several countries around the world—have a diversity of political opinions and affiliations, but we are unified by a love for Christ that supersedes any government leader. Together, we love our neighbors and serve the vulnerable because we are motivated and guided by our faith. That does not mean we shy away civil discourse—quite the opposite. We stay engaged and informed, we vote, and we advocate for families.
In fact, at Bethany, we go to the hard places and try to shine the light of Jesus. We believe that expectant parents should have all available life-affirming options for themselves and their unborn children. We believe refugees and immigrants are positive contributors in our communities, that they should be welcomed and cared for in our nation. We oppose and lament family separation at the U.S.–Mexico border. We are committed to the journey of becoming an anti-racist organization and uprooting systemic racism in every area of influence we have.
Our bottom line is caring for children and families—no matter who they are—because they are all made in God’s image.
Like many of you, I’ve been praying for our elected officials and thinking about the election throughout 2020. This election season has been energizing for some Christians, while exhausting for others. But ultimately, we must remember that we all have much more in common than what we perceive to drive us apart.
No matter who we are, we all want to feel safe, loved, and connected. We all want a better future for our children and the generations to come.
So it’s up to us to be the peacemakers that God calls us to be and recognize the inherent dignity in each person and the values that we share. May Christians be known as peacemakers in this trying time.