If you’re into politics, this last election cycle has mirrored the year 2016 in sports. With the NBA finals going to game 7, with the Cubs winning the world series in overtime in game 7, and the first Super Bowl overtime game ever, it was spectacle after spectacle. And just when you thought it was over… it wasn’t. If politics is a sport, then 2016 was a year for the books.
As we’ve seen in President Trump’s first few weeks in office, government affairs have consequences for people everywhere. Politics affect us directly and indirectly. From healthcare to immigration, we would be hard pressed to find something that happened in the last month politically that didn’t affect us. It’s also discussed everywhere, all the time. When something happens at the White House, our social media feeds explode with discussion from the left and the right; the polarization of our country nearly ensures that this discourse will be contentious. Combine that with the rise of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” it’s becoming increasingly more tiresome and painful to parse through what is true and what isn’t. Politics has always been kind of confusing, but our biases serve to make balanced political thought nearly unattainable.
Given the challenges presented to us in this kind of political atmosphere, how are we supposed to make heads or tails of what’s going on in our country? Though we may be tempted to opt out and shut off the noise, I think that would be a mistake. The biggest reason why we shouldn’t disengage from politics is that Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. Politics by definition is how a community organizes itself: it is more about how we connect to one another as neighbors than reacting to every move of the White House. To love your neighbor is to pay attention to what is going on politically, especially on the local level, where the actions of your local government are bound to make an impact in your life more directly. This kind of engagement is far more helpful and affords you an opportunity to invest your time and energy more wisely. For example, if your church is engaged in the neighborhood, it is making a direct influence on the community. Your school is a political entity in the sense that it deals with local children in the area. Therefore, finding an organization or group that is already engaging in the community would be the best way to get involved in politics.
But going back to the question of parsing through national political rhetoric, what are the tools and resources that we have that can help us navigate through the noise?