Divided we fall

Great Britain

'Street debate': Photo by evans.photo Flikr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Democracy is a wonderful thing. However, election campaigns themselves can be hurtful and divisive – and it’s not just the feuding politicians that bear the scars. 

This morning I heard a longstanding and respected MP say that she wouldn’t be standing again at the forthcoming general election.

The final straw had been an anonymous tweet she had received, in which she had been called a murderer. It came after months of anger and recrimination that had been directed towards her.

The MP in question has decided she’s had enough and is going back to her old line of work.

Premium irate A lot of our nation seems to be angry at the moment. They’re angry at politicians, angry at the media and angry at each other. 

Premium irate
You’ll often find the anger is at its worst on Facebook and Twitter. We seem to be emboldened to speak our minds in a way we wouldn’t dream of doing if we were talking to someone face-to-face.

One (hotly contested) recent opinion poll suggested that over half of people asked considered that the risk of violence against MPs was 'a price worth paying' to get their preferred Brexit outcome.

It’s sad to see how many Christians have been sucked into the hostilities, myself included on occasion.

Disagreeing well As a result we can end up feeling alienated from people we disagree with – including our sisters and brothers in Christ. It doesn’t have to be this way, though...

Disagreeing well
As God’s church we are not called to agree on every issue. However, we are called to disagree well. We need to watch our hearts and our tongues as we engage in dialogue with people who see the world very differently from ourselves.

To show there is indeed ‘nothing new under the sun’, the following is a quote from John Wesley’s journal in 1674:

‘I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them,
- To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
- To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
- To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.’

(John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley)

We are tribal creatures and it’s tempting to divide the world and even our fellow believers into ‘us’ and ‘them’. However, the Apostle Paul reminded the churches:

‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’

(Galatians 3:28)

This nation may well be at a crucial crossroads regarding its future political and economic direction. However, I believe we are at another crossroads (along with much of the world). 

Are we going to become steadily more entrenched in our political and social opinions and tribes? Will we choose to grow more intolerant of people and opinions that are different?

Our nation is deeply divided; it needs people who can disagree well. And people who sow peace and reconciliation in their lives. Jesus said that our most distinctive feature must be the love we show one another (John 13:35); this election is the perfect opportunity to put that into practice. 

Pray for the church, that we can be a voice for unity, as well as speaking up for the poorest and most vulnerable around the world.

An election prayer for your church:

God Almighty,
Thank you that we live in a country where we can freely and safely vote.
Thank you that we can speak to those in power without fear.
Thank you that no matter what happens during this election you can work all things for your good and glory.
Protect our hearts, friends, families, communities and churches as we disagree.
Protect our country as we undergo changes in our politics.
Protect our leaders and politicians as they lead us.
Give our leaders wisdom and vision to govern well, overcoming poverty and injustice and showing concern for God’s creation.
Give us the energy to play our part in society.
Give us a vision of how we can continue to bring your Kingdom here.
Amen.

Ben Cohen
Ben is Web Editor for Tearfund. This can sometimes feel a bit like being ‘senior hairstylist for…