I used to think "political" was a dirty word. After finishing seminary and starting my first call as a pastor in a congregation, I avoided all topics that could be remotely construed as "political" in nature.
My utterly misguided goals at that time: Avoid offending anyone or saying the wrong thing or speaking words that lead people to feel anything other than pleasant. Like I said … they were the misguided goals of a naive 25-year-old overeager people-pleaser.
Now fast-forward eight years. Wouldn't you know (and you probably already did) it turns out "political" actually isn't a curse word after all! Rather than a negative realm to be avoided at all costs, politics is more helpfully compared to the soil upon which we walk. It's there all the time, so we may as well be conscious of it and involved in its care.
I shudder to think of what the nutrient quality of the dirt will look like if we all opt out and give in to the fear that touching it will leave us soiled.
Political means "relating to the affairs of a country." Said more directly: Everything is political. It's hard to find topics that don't relate in some way to the collective well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.
This isn't bad news; it's freeing news! It means you don't have to be an experienced, highly educated state representative, a pronounced Democrat or Republican, or a loud and boisterous person in order to care deeply about the affairs of our country and world.
Politics isn't about being overly opinionated, posting divisive Facebook and Twitter content, or filling your car with bumper stickers. Instead, developing political awareness is a means of engaging healthfully in the ways our local community, state, country, and world operate. Politics isn't inherently about division. It's much more about lifting up the values we hold in common and using our collective voice to prioritize them.
For some of us, there's a learning curve that accompanies reengaging in politics. A lot of us tend to disengage from topics that make us feel ignorant and, truth be told, many of us are ill-equipped to speak about how even the most basic aspects of government work. I took government/civics back in 10th grade from a student teacher that I'm fairly certain everyone in the school had a crush on. We were a very distracted, giggling bunch and didn't learn much that semester.
Even if you were not distracted by a handsome student teacher, it is likely you, too, have forgotten some things about the three branches of the American government. So together we can learn, and it's actually an advantage that we already recognize that we don't know it all.
A 2013 study by Fernbach, Rogers, Fox, and Sloman revealed that most people typically know less about the complexities of political policies than they think they do. There is a strong correlation between people who perceive they know more than they really know and political extremism.
The study also revealed that when people were confronted with the reality that they were unable to explain policies they thought they knew very well, their opinions tended to become more moderate.
We all have more to learn. Strengthening our political muscles is like building strength in any other part of our body. It takes time, dedication, and intention … and in doing so, we contribute to the health of the wider community.
So where does spirituality fit into politics? All over the place! The spiritual isn't relegated solely to church pews, yoga mats, and time out on the lake. The creative forces at work in the cells of our body and the petals of a flowers are also at work in political processes.
As we expand our sense of where God dwells, we recognize that there are no limitations upon God's presence. The political is holy ground, too, so let's take good care of the soil.