Political commentator Denise Gitsham is encouraging Christians to stand apart from today’s divisive, hyper-partisan culture in her new book, Politics for People Who Hate Politics: How to Engage without Losing Your Friends or Selling Your Soul.
The former congressional candidate and aide to President George W. Bush has seen how the toxicity of politics has influenced the culture and her own life in the past two decades and wants to help change that.
“We have become not just people that believe something, but instead of saying ‘You’re wrong, and I’m right,’ we’ve started saying that ‘You’re bad, and I’m good.’ And whenever our political identities become what we associate ourselves with the most, instead of a mother or a friend or a neighbor or a teacher…it becomes existential to us to be right. And that’s what causes this division in America,” she remarked to Fox News Digital.
In her book, Gitsham hopes to give Christians, and anyone else who wants to make a positive difference in the culture, some practical advice about how to thoughtfully engage with those who disagree with them.
“Whenever you’re involved in a divisive conversation, really think about what your motivation is for actually engaging in this conversation,” she suggested. “Generally, it’s not, ‘I just want to destroy this human being,’ right? Especially with someone you love, especially over the holidays, it’s somebody that you value that relationship and that is something you want to maintain past the next election cycle.”
“So just when you are clear about what you want to actually come out of this conversation with, then you’re less likely to veer off into really dangerous territory,” she advised.
The second tip she gives is to practice humility in these conversations. You can do this by staying “curious” and receptive when talking with those on the other side of the political aisle.
“So I think when we engage with humility, we recognize that we have a perspective on the truth that’s shaped by our experiences, our childhood, our upbringing and our environment. But we don’t necessarily have the whole truth, which is why we’re constantly evolving on positions that we thought we were rock solid in a year ago, three months ago. So when we’re curious and humble, we learn a lot more and asking, ‘Why?’, instead of just rushing to judgment, often reveals that there’s more to somebody’s anger about an issue than what meets the eye,” she said.
The third point she makes is to speak the truth in love. This virtue is not just Biblical, but also something influential people practice, she says.
Gitsham explained how she learned the value of this while working on the campaign trail for then-Governor George W. Bush, and saw how he was able to attract “high-profile Democrats” to support his presidential campaign because they felt respected by him.
But the greatest example believers can look to is how Jesus handled himself against adversaries in the Gospel accounts, Gitsham says.
“He always valued the person over the issue,” she said. “He looked at the person and said, ‘I see your sin and I love you anyway.’”
Loving your enemies means also having the wisdom to discern when to speak up on issues that could start futile arguments, Gitsham explained.
“Oftentimes he [Jesus] had the wisdom not to engage directly with people when he knew that his efforts to defend himself or defend the truth would be futile. I feel like we need to pray for discernment. We need to be able to read a room,” she said.
“If you see that this is just going to be a fruitless conversation…. Maybe now’s not the right time. Maybe wisdom says later. Also recognize that nobody has ever changed anyone’s minds from arguing. It just doesn’t work…That has never changed a single heart or mind on any issue, much less in politics,” she said.