Love, Faith And…Politics?!

The election's over, but how do you handle the tricky terrain of love meets politics?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

wo things you're never supposed to talk about are politics and religion. Yet both of these topics are hard to avoid right now. When everyone’s so passionate about his or her candidate and beliefs, how do you handle this tricky terrain?

Here are some tips:

Remember the Golden Rule.
“Most every religious tradition says love thy neighbor as you love yourself,” says Susan Grace, a former attorney
The point is to exchange ideas, learn and grow, not to intimidate or disrespect.
and stand-up comedian who’s now a minister at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in Manhattan. “Translated into the 21st-century political and dating arena, that means two things: first love and respect yourself by educating yourself about issues of the day, then — and only then — speak your truth when appropriate. Inflammatory language or baseless accusations get you nowhere. The point is to exchange ideas, learn and grow, not to intimidate or disrespect in order to win. Listen with respect and patience. We were all given one mouth and two ears for a reason.”

Listen and learn.
Even if you don’t agree, listening to opposing views is not only a nice thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. “An important benefit of listening is that it will inevitably help you become better informed, even if it does not change your conclusion regarding religion and politics,” notes Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. “One year I spent several months studying and meeting with people of different religions and listening to their stories and their convictions. I was not persuaded to convert from Christianity, but I felt enriched by listening to their stories. I found much common ground, and some of their practices moved me to a deeper Christian spirituality. The Muslim emphasis on regular times for prayer each day, for instance, led me to devote an increasing amount of time to pray myself.”

Don’t take it personally.
“When my girlfriend is passionate about
This allows us to date harmoniously and really enjoy each other.
something — particularly politics — she can get a little frothy,” admits Thom Briggs, an Omaha Libertarian dating a liberal Democrat. “At first I took it personally because we don’t share the same political views, but I soon realized it’s just how she is. She’s not attacking me personally or even my views. It’s hard to turn the other cheek sometimes, but I sure don’t want to fight about it.”

Take the high road.
If your date doesn’t accept your views, show class and continue to enjoy his or her company, counsels Paul Davis, author of United States of Arrogance and Are You Ready For True Love? “Be inwardly secure regardless of the person's reaction. Security and confidence are both attractive and sexy. Besides, you will be amazed when you don’t waver from your beliefs in the midst of rejection how quickly people turn and agreeably change their mind in your favor.”

Focus on common ground.
“There’s a lot of talk this political season about unifying disparate factions of both parties and healing the nation,” observes Sue Wallach, an independent Catholic in Los Angeles. “I think the best way to do that is to look for common beliefs and values instead of focusing on differences. Right now, I’m dating a guy who’s more socially liberal than I am, and it would be easy to play up the things we disagree on. Instead, we respect our differences and put our energy into that common ground. This allows us to date harmoniously and really enjoy each other.”

Election-year politicking can create tensions between even the best-matched daters. But keeping these basic rules in mind will help you and your date deal with different political and religious issues effectively so you can stay focused on enriching and enjoying your relationship.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a Yellow Dog Democrat living and working in North Carolina.
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