Can we stop fighting about politics?
Trapped in a heated political argument was not the way I had expected to spend the afternoon at a friend’s house. How did a friendly conversation escalate so quickly? Before I knew what was happening, we were practically shouting at each other, each convinced that the other person’s view was totally wrong.
I didn’t like what had happened that day. It felt like we were being altered by political discussions and responding in ways that were reactive instead of constructive. What could I do? I realized I needed to pray—and not for others to see things my way!
For me, prayer often starts with silencing my own self-focused thoughts, like “I am right!” and “I need to find the best argument.” As justified as they might seem, these self-focused thoughts actually bring turbulence. Silencing them allows me to be more open to hearing God. Then my prayer becomes one of listening to God and humbly receiving God’s inspiring ideas about how to think differently about a situation that’s bothering me. Through studying Christian Science, I’ve learned that peaceful, loving thoughts are what I can expect from God, since God is Love itself. And these peaceful, loving thoughts counteract and replace any suggestions of friction, anger, or inharmony.
For me, prayer often starts with quieting self-focused thoughts like “I am right!” and “I need to find the best argument.”
This time, as I prayed, I realized that what I was really struggling with wasn’t my friend’s differing opinion, but a belief that my friend had a mind that was at odds with mine. It felt like my personal mind had to convince my friend’s mind of its error. However, I also saw that this reasoning left God completely out of the picture. I remembered two passages from the Bible that help me understand God better. The first reads, “The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). And the other says, “He [God] is in one mind, and who can turn him?” (Job 23:13). These passages reminded me that because there is only one God, there is only one Mind—the divine Mind. This all-intelligent Mind fills all space and consciousness and is expressed in its creation. So seeing multiple personal minds in conflict was actually a misperception of the whole situation.
What did the spiritual fact of one Mind mean for my friend and me, then? It meant that, rather than having minds of our own, we both express the qualities of the one Mind, including intelligence and discernment. And it meant that neither of us could be deceived by false political perspectives.
I also turned to Jesus’ example for how to deal with differing perspectives. At one point during his ministry, Jesus confronted the strong opinions of certain religious figures (scribes) who questioned Jesus’ authority to forgive a man’s sins, because, they said, only God could forgive sins. Instead of getting mired in a debate, though, Jesus lifted the conversation to an affirmation of the man’s right to be free not only from the physical ailment, but also from sin. Jesus’ inspired approach both healed the man and affected the packed house of witnesses: “They were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion” (Mark 2:12).
In thinking about this, I realized I wanted to do more than convince someone of a different political perspective. I wanted to bring healing, in both conversations with my friend and the broader political conversation in my community and country. Jesus reasoned logically and convincingly, but what brought healing was his love for the paralyzed man and his correct perception of the scribes. He saw the scribes as individuals governed by God, not as opinionated men with opposing viewpoints.
It was a wake-up call to recognize that I, too, needed to be motivated by love instead of by a desire to be right.
It was a wake-up call for me. I needed to be motivated by love instead of a desire to be right. To fully love, I had to see each person, no matter their political party, as my brother or sister—reflecting the same divine Mind. This doesn’t mean that we all think exactly the same, but that we can find unity even in our differences because we have the same divine source of intelligence.
I quickly found lots of opportunities to apply these ideas. Recognizing the need to start with loving God and loving others made all the difference. Sometimes this love impelled me to share a perspective that lifted the conversation to embrace a more expansive point of view. Other times, it silenced my internal simmering and allowed me to listen with respect, understanding, and compassion. My conversations about politics moderated significantly, and I never again got so upset about a political discussion.
Ultimately, what we all want is to find solutions to the issues that matter to our communities, countries, and world. Why not start with the spiritual fact of one Mind and see where that can get us?