Can we be honest?
It seems like a root canal would be more pleasant than entering into the political discourse currently enveloping our country. With so much divisiveness and tension mounting over the upcoming election, perhaps burying your head in the sand feels like the next best step (as with most things in #NeverEnding2020).
However, I’ve been advised that’s not the most sensible parenting response. So, I vote that we focus on a few practical ways to talk to our kids about politics, over these next several weeks. Let’s keep it interesting by using a few of the more positive glimpses into our political system of recent days: Broadway’s Hamilton.
This summer, with its release on Disney+, Hamilton graced our screens, won our hearts, and gave us a significant history lesson on the foundations of our country.
Were some editorial liberties taken? I’m sure. Did it contain some language and/or topics that are not kid appropriate? Yes.
But all in all, there are some great talking points we can take from Hamilton, as we “put ourselves back in the narrative” of politics with our families (See what I did there?).
1. Give the 30,000-foot view
“Oceans rise, empires fall—we have seen each other through it all.” —King George in Hamilton
Over the past two hundred and forty-four years, our country has literally seen it all. We’ve had economic highs and lows, leadership greats, and terrorist blows. This country has endured a tremendous amount and remains a testament that one nation, under God, will stand the test of time.
Living in a democracy (I use the term loosely due to my political-science-major husband who reminds me that we live in a constitutional republic) is a great gift of freedom and opportunity. Evidenced by the number of refugees trying to enter our country in hopes of a better life, the opportunities we are afforded should not be taken for granted. Elections and leaders will come and go, but our Constitution and political system is a large part of what makes America unique. It allows us freedom in so many areas of our lives.
Elections, especially heated ones, provide us the opportunity to speak into the bigger picture of the process that’s foundational to democracy. Over the past decade, civics has increasingly been phased out of school curriculum. Our kids are missing critical knowledge about the branches of government, checks and balances, and separation of powers. These are great starting points for talking to our kids about the bigger picture of democracy and why it’s our privilege and responsibility to be a part of the process.
Oceans rise, empires fall, and presidential elections come and go. We have the opportunity to teach our kids the fundamentals of democracy now so they will exercise their political rights later.
These pre-election days may feel like they’re going to last “forever, and ever, and ever and ever and ever . . . .” But time is fleeting, so let’s use it well.
2. Separate policies from people
“The world’s gonna know your name. What’s your name man?” —Aaron Burr in Hamilton
No matter your affiliation, there’s rarely a candidate with whom we completely agree. Heck, I don’t agree with much of what I stand for on any given day. The names and affiliations sparking the greatest debate today will have little relevance a few decades down the road. There will be new heroes, new villains, and plenty of diametrically opposed views surrounding both.
Sadly, our personal rants about candidates often discredit our more valid concerns surrounding the policies they embody. People and positions in government change, the policies remain. Our real opportunity is to teach a biblical worldview on the most prevalent issues in a given election. Teaching our kids that God’s word speaks into all things is a critical parenting win. It far outweighs the temptation to tear down the individual(s) with whom we disagree.
The reality is God uses all kinds of people to accomplish his larger kingdom purposes. There’s not been one single person in office (or to come in the future) who is not under the authority of the God who reigns over all things. His sovereignty has no limits. Paul, subject to arguably the most brutal governing authority of all time under Nero, wrote these words: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).
Talk to your kids about godly character, the sacrifices of public service, and the importance of voting for candidates who best uphold our convictions and values as followers of Christ. In separating policies from people, our kids learn to search for God’s best (not our best) in all things.
3. Consider your goal: To be right or righteous?
“Let me offer you some free advice. Talk less, smile more.” —Aaron Burr in Hamilton
Consider this: Would the world recognize you as a Christian if all they knew was how you engaged in politics? Would your kids know Jesus better if all they heard was your political speak? Do they hear Jesus and the gospel in your political discussion or just your political position?
The truth is our political opinions are unlikely to change minds, but quite likely to change our witness. Jesus gives our marching orders in the great commission: “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
The gospel teaches us that we do this best by loving others and by pointing them back to the only one who has complete control and dominion over all things on heaven and earth. He’s the creator. He’s the sustainer. He’s the only hope we have in a world full of hopelessness.
The great commission begins in our home. When we let the goal of being right replace our calling to be righteous, it’s time to tap the brakes. This applies to our political views as well as most anything else that we’re passionate about. I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone else. But perhaps there are places where we need to stop resting on our moral high ground. Maybe instead we need to walk in reverence on the Lord’s holy ground.
Next time you come across political comments that make your skin crawl, remember that the most righteous thing we can do is “talk less, smile more.” What about speaking our mind? With discernment from God on the right time and right word, sure. But even then, always with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Above all, tell it well
Let’s wrap this up with one of the most powerful moments in Hamilton, where his widow contemplates: “When the time is up, have I done enough, will they tell your story?”
As believers, I would say it this way: “When our time is up, have we done enough to tell his story?” Our kids need to know about Jesus far more than they need to know our opinions on the candidates in the 2020 election. The same goes for our neighbors, friends, and each person we’ve been entrusted with on this side of heaven.
Lin-Manuel Miranda famously says: “History is entirely created by the person who tells the story.”
As followers of Jesus, let’s tell it well.