It is said that when you are in a discussion with friends, you should never talk about politics or religion. Let’s just say I will try to heed that… but just a little, and hopefully not stray into deep waters. The reason for not speaking about these two subjects is that they can bring out the worst in us as we retreat to the safety of our little corner and shout from there. The underlying reason is quite simple really. If you don’t agree on something at the start, you will not agree at the end, no matter how eloquent the arguments are made on either side. In fact, a perfectly good friendship can be changed forever. In the hope that we will still be friends, let me take the safer of these two ‘no-nos’ and bring up the subject of politics.
The starting point is easy. In politics both sides whether left or right want to live in a better world, and so bring out their plans to make it happen. These manifestos will be identical in some points, similar in others, and diametrically opposed in a few. The trouble is that these last ones tend to be the things we want to talk about, because they are the most interesting and divisive! We are drawn like a moth to the flame. We try, but we can’t keep our mouth shut.
Now here’s the question I want to leave with you. How do you and I react when we differ greatly on a major part of the manifesto, even with our friends?? I guess for the most part, we humour them (and ourselves) and pass it over as just ‘one of those things’, and that is good. But then there are those other times when we differ (and we will) over something which separates us greatly. It’s not so easy to gloss over these ones, and so we enter dangerous ground. If we stay quiet, they will think we have come over to their way, but then if we disagree as strongly as they have made their case, we will probably say too much and jeopardise our relationship. And anyway we argue (to ourselves) we always said we should be open and honest with each other. That openness and honesty can, and will, come with a cost. And there will be more than a political price to pay.
Come to think of it, whether in politics or religion, the dangers and pitfalls are the same. There are times we must make an informed but calculated decision to speak out about those things that separate us within the Christian church, or stay silent in order to keep the peace. Either way, silent or not, there is still a high price to pay with important relationships. Maybe then the old adage is true after all. We don’t talk about religion or politics in ANY open company. The price is huge, and have you noticed that neither side is ever wrong. Bad enough when it’s politics, but unChristlike when it’s religion.