Thanks for giving me the opportunity to write and share a few things with you to encourage you in your walk with Christ as it relates to the current political climate. These are interesting times we are living in. I have an icon on one of my favorite saints, St. Anthony the Great, hanging in the kitchen. A quote attributed to St. Anthony which I have referred to often is, "“A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.'” I think its safe to say those words can be applied to what we are living through today.
Let me back up and say I have been on both ends of the socio-political spectrum, left and right. I think it's a natural progression to drift more right as one gets older (may not be the case for everyone, but for me it has been); the call to Revolution isn't throngs of senior citizens in the street calling for an overthrow of the natural or political order; it's the young. Can't necessarily blame them either--youth is filled with energy, hope, and idealism, but hasn't always necessarily been tempered with the wisdom and prudence that comes with, well, living in the world for very long. We can learn from their enthusiasm and hope for a better future, but need to remember that life has a way of tempering us, and so spending time with seniors, esp those who have a degree of wisdom, is invaluable to counter-balance the emotionalism of the young.
I don't watch the news; most of my taking in of the current state of affairs, the finger on the social pulse, is from Facebook. I have a pretty diverse feed of both people on the left and right. Yet even that is getting tiresome for me because, as you said, things often degenerate into mocking and angry tones and posts. I think what fuels the fire is emotionalism and impulsive reactionary habits, fueled by mob mentality. This happens on both the left and the right. It is prudent to take a step back and give things time to settle before reacting. What's been hard especially lately is the President has been moving swiftly to 'undo' a lot of the policies of the past eight years, (almost too swiftly in my opinion) without sufficient time for reflection. I am trying to stay focused on policy and what exactly is happening politically aside from the personal character of the president, and the doomsday prophecies of those who are against those policies, but it's all happening so fast it's hard to keep up. I only have so many hours in a day and need to do 100 different things in a given day--family, work, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, worshiping, taking out the trash, etc--that I can't devote myself full time to cutting through the brush of political discourse to see what's going on.
Something I read recently when I was trying to understand the mass hysteria coming from those on the left-leaning end of the spectrum was this:
"For the secular leftist, the end state is social and necessarily political. It is all about getting everybody else on board and herding them into his imagined utopia. There are so many "problematic" aspects of life that need to be reengineered, so many vast social systems that need to be overthrown and replaced. But the rest of us are all screwing it up, all the time, through our greed, our denial, our apathy, our refusal to listen to him banging on about his tired socialist ideology.
For the Christian, the ideal end state is safely in the next world and therefore is never in doubt. For the individualist, it’s in his own life, and it’s mostly under his direct control. For the leftist, however, it is all outside his control. It requires other people, a lot of other people, and those SOBs usually refuse to cooperate. Talk about rage-inducing.
If the whole focus of your life is on getting everybody else to agree with you on every detail of your politics and adopt your plans for a perfect society, then you’re setting yourself up to be at war with most of the human race most of the time."
That's why sources are important I suppose. But even mainstream media sources are skewed, and we tend to gravitate towards that which reinforces our own views--those on the right watch Fox News, for example, and those on the left read the Huffington Post. Then we just become pawns pitted against one another. So, to a degree, we need to inform ourselves, but you can only do so much. Beware wolves in sheep clothing. This goes back to what I said about surrounding ourselves with wise, temperate people devoted to what one values. This is why being part of a Christian community is important. I am grateful that I can lean on the example and collective wisdom of a group of Christians who are serious about their faith and live it. Though we worship in different traditions, we are united in our worship of the One True God. Likewise, I know (albeit, more remotely) Christians in my own tradition who are just as serious and intentional about living out their faith and preserving orthodoxy and the intellectual tradition of the Church and am encouraged by their thoughtful reflections and commentary as it relates to making sense of what we are up against in the world, in our culture, and our nation. Most of this comes through Facebook, but I know others in 'real life' as well who I rely on for support in living my own faith in the Catholic tradition, and staying true to God's will when discernment becomes difficult.
This was all a preamble to some practical advice I have to your original question, which is how to live as Christian in the world today amidst the mocking and accusatory tone against us by those who, for example, accuse pro-life people of being hypocrites (as it relates to refugees) or intolerant of those with a different political agenda besides their own.
First, take solace that if you are hated in the world for your faith, it is indicative that you are probably on the right path, for "if the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (Jn 15:18-19) So, this world we live in...we are pilgrims. It is not our true home. What we do on it needs to be in preparation for the next life. That does not mean we ignore the current plight of social ills, but to put it in its proper perspective in light of eternity. We serve the poor and those in need because the Lord said that to those who give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, etc (Mt 25:42) , they do to him. And yet he acknowledges that "the poor you will always have with you." (Mt 26:11). While we are not saved by works, a faith without works is dead (James 2:14). And so it is important to work for justice and live out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy because it is our duty as Christians, who follow in the footsteps of Jesus and who recognize Him in the poor. But this world is not our home, ultimately.
That being said, there is legitimate space to consider that care for the poor does not ipso facto mean government programs are the answer. This is where the right comes from a different political ideology from the left, and it is not fair to accuse the right of "not caring for the poor" because they do not see government solutions to problems of poverty as the answer. This is where the accusatory manner and breakdown in civil discourse can be seen in part, and where stepping back and listening can help.
The second thing is, consider your trajectory. How does your Christian faith manifest itself? Is it cultural (ie, I am an Irish-Catholic)? Is it social (donuts and coffee after church on Sunday, bridge club, etc)? Is in individual (apart from a community, 'on my own terms')? Is it strictly intellectual (ie, I 'study' Christianity)? Let's not over-complicate things, lest we get hung up and paralyzed in the process. Worship the Lord, in our daily actions but esp on the Sabbath, with fellow believers. Serve and love His people at every opportunity--do the work. Pray, study the Word, and listen to the Holy Spirit working in your heart, both by setting aside time intentionally and in the little things throughout your day that you can offer up to God as a holy oblation. Being a witness for Christ looks different for everyone because we are One body with many parts and different gifts (1 Cor:12), but everyone is important and everyone has a part to play. What is yours? How will you build up the body of Christ on Earth and in doing so, prepare yourself to be with Him for eternity? Really take some time to sit with God and ask, sincerely. He will give you what you need to do the work, to give you courage, the grace you need to complete the work. Give Him the time.
The third thing is, you be the example you want to see. Be civil in your conversations with people but firm in your convictions; do everything in love. If it costs you, know that you are not the first and will not be the last, but be prepared, since small is the gate and narrow the path that leads to life, and few find it (Mt 7:14). Live with integrity, and repent sincerely with your lips and seek forgiveness when you fall. Don't know what you believe? Pray and ask God to reveal his Truth to you. The darkness hates the light, and enemies of God hate the truth, but we know that it is Truth that will set us free (Jn 8:32). One God. One Truth. Be discerning, and don't take as gospel everything you read on tv, social media, etc. People are upset for different reasons, but do not underestimate the resistance that comes from those who hate Truth (and do not conflate the political with the spiritual), hate the idea of subjection to the Divine and Eternal Law, and who prefer darkness to life. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.(Eph 6:12)
The final thing is, remember that in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, Christ has overcome the world! (Jn 16:33) People are being whipped into a frenzy over the temporal and complacent about the eternal. We should live as if we would die tomorrow. That is good advice for anyone! The difference for the Christian is that they know without a doubt, that at that time, they WILL meet God. And so every day is a gift because it offers the opportunity to give glory to God, to be blessed, and to serve Him in the poor. Christ has won the war over sin and darkness through his obedience. We are called to emulate that obedience. So take heart, for perfect love casts out fear. (1 Jn 4:18)
Be assured of my prayers, and let me know if you would like to continue the conversation.