If You Can’t Pray Something Nice…

I spend enough time in both camps to read the mockery of conservatives and the mockery of liberals on Facebook, and, to be fair, both often make me laugh. However, I worry that these social media shots indicate what mockery typically accompanies: Disdain.

The Pew Research Center released some numbers about America’s partisan divide at the beginning of the year. Paul Taylor, who wrote a book on the findings, summarizes some of the most striking takeaways, and I found these notes particularly alarming:

The cleavages between the political tribes spill beyond politics into everyday life…

Identity-based hyperpartisanship is thriving at a time when a majority of Americans tell pollsters they’d like to see Washington rediscover the lost art of political compromise…

-Paul Taylor, “The Demographic Trends Shaping American Politics in 2016 and Beyond”

It may be time to go back and watch Bambi again, if only for Thumper’s line: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Actually, this is a bit too simplistic. Not everything that needs to be said will be heard as “nice,” at least not universally, at least not if we’re talking about important, personal, controversial matters.

This is probably a better rule:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4

The passage doesn’t say anything about good people in high positions, it just says “all who are in high positions.” It doesn’t say to only maintain a godly and dignified manner with those who treat us in a godly and dignified manner, it just says “in every way.” It doesn’t specify that God desires our camp to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, it simply says “all people.”

Perhaps our new rule of thumb should be, “If you can’t pray anything nice, don’t say nothing at all.” We can’t, after all, force people to consider our words “nice,” even if they are loving, accurate, or wise. We can, however, commit to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all people, even those we fear, distrust, or disagree with, even those whose minds we are hoping to change. It may not score us as many points with our tribe (and our tribe might not have such bad ideas after all), but “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

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