How to defuse family political drama

Is anyone else tired of political drama in their family? I sure am. My family runs the gamut from extreme left to extreme right. And then there’s me — the one that tries to understand both sides. Intolerance and intransigence on both sides are exasperating. Which of course puts me right in the crosshairs of everyone.

I was inspired last year by Tim Urban’s amazing article on Political Disney World. His dispassionate and apolitical analysis of a system broken by tribalism was empowering. It showed me where I belong. Not right. Not left. I’m apolitical. I agree with Democrats when they make sense. I agree with Republicans when they make sense. I do find one party making more sense more often, but I’m a pragmatist drawn to the ideas, not one party or the other. I seek truth no matter how inconvenient… and truth usually means conceding that both sides have a point.

I recently received a text from someone on the far right, recirculating an old opinion piece in a small town Michigan newspaper. The piece was written from the religious far right, over-simplifying complex issues into stark dichotomies and villainizing the people that disagree with him… which is a lot of people. The text went to a large group of people, and I really struggled with how to respond. In the past, I would have responded with a condescending rejection of far right dogma. But I’m trying to be less of a jerk, so I started looking for other approaches.

Since the post was an attack on Progressivism from an Evangelical Christian point of view, I did some research into how Progressive values might be consistent with Christian values. Christians make up 63% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans. So while Republicans are prominently associated with religion via the powerful Evangelical voting bloc, they clearly don’t have a monopoly on politics or religion. My research led me to a wonderful set of principles on ProgressiveChristian.com that helped me establish common religious ground to defuse my family political drama. I paraphrase the principles here — in my actual response — in hopes that they inspire your own response.

How to Defuse Family Political Drama

  1. I believe in the Oneness and Unity of All Life. I embrace you as part of our nation and will not make you feel bad for your beliefs. It won’t be the last time my beliefs are mischaracterized and villainized, but I did find it hurtful coming from [you].
  2. I believe there are many ways to experience God. You have found one way to experience God. As it happens, I believe different things. But we are all on this human journey together.
  3. I aspire to create community inclusive of all people. That includes the religious and political right. I value your views, defend your right to hold them, and affirm that they deserve to be heard. Whether they become policy will be based on their utility, but I won’t ask you to change or make you feel excluded in any way.
  4. I believe in radical compassion and inclusion. I aspire to have an open mind and confront injustice without concern for whether those committing the injustice agree with me on politics or religion
  5. I believe in maintaining an open heart toward your perspective and reject absolutes or dogma that could mislead me
  6. I am actively working toward peace and justice among all people. I will seek common ground. Where there is no common ground, I will seek reconciliation.
  7. I seek to protect and restore the integrity of our earth and all creation
  8. This is all part of my commitment to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and love. I have found a meaningful faith that allows me to live authentically across all parts of my personal, professional, and spiritual life.

I can hear the howls now about how I’m a Socialist and my message reveals that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Progressive. But let’s stop right now — read the message again. You have no idea how I feel about abortion. No idea where I stand on gun rights. No idea how I feel about confederate statues or storming the capital. I assure you, my beliefs would exasperate extremists on both sides. All you know is, whatever you feel about about those issues, I embrace you as part of our diverse nation and defend your right to believe them.

I wish I could say my response was received without drama — that wouldn’t be entirely truthful. But there was significantly less drama. And the drama felt better. And at least I can sleep tonight, knowing that I stood my ground without igniting the tinderbox of family political drama. I hope it helps you as well.

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