I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it seems like the 2016 election year has gotten a little heated. In fact, saying it’s gotten “a little heated” is like saying that the Civil War was just a “minor misunderstanding.” If you haven’t seen the name-calling, the mud-slinging, and the overall horrifying lack of humanity that candidates are bringing to the table this year, I wish I knew how you missed it. By the way, I’m not endorsing any candidates here. If you want to know who I’m voting for, find me and ask. Or kick me an e-mail, text, or phone call. If you want advice on how to vote, I’m glad to give it, but that’s not the point of this post. Either way, I am sure I am not the only kids’ pastor to overhear the kids’ opinions on the subjects. It’s something that’s in desperate need of addressing. First, remember that your kids hear you…and repeat you. I definitely know where some parents stand…and why! Remember, your kids are sponges. They absorb all that information and all those life lessons that you give them, but then they also are full of whatever you put in them. You can’t put toilet water into a sponge and expect drinking water to come out. So, remember that when you’re talking with your kids, and also remember that there are a few opportunities you’re going to get when discussing politics.
Opportunity to teach Biblical respect for government
The Bible is pretty clear about how we are to treat government. This often gets people’s feathers ruffled because, plain and simple, they don’t want to treat government like the Bible says. When tax time comes, my first reaction is often to not want to do what the Bible says and pay up. I’d rather keep it, or at least pay less! But, the Bible is clear about paying our taxes, offering our respect to the government, and praying for our government. We can absolutely affect change in our government, but we, as Christians, are to do that legally, respectfully, and in a Christlike manner. Again, this is a touchy subject to some, but the Bible is clear.
Opportunity to teach love
Election years, traditionally full of hate, are phenomenal opportunities to show your kids what makes Christians different. Instead of bad-mouthing, name-calling, and attacking the candidate you don’t support, why not explain to your kids why you believe that the candidate you do support is the better choice? Don’t sink down to gossip, lying, and attacking. Talk about good qualities in your preferred candidate. Remember, you are shaping your kids. If you teach them that the best way to show the good in one person is to show the bad in another, they WILL replicate that behavior later on. It’s also a great opportunity to show love to other people. Take a cross-section of any church and you’ll quickly find that people are split among multiple candidates. Does this make them any less your brother or sister in Christ? Does it mean that Christ didn’t die for them too? No! But, I’ve already seen the attacks on Facebook and Twitter about how “you can’t be a Christian and vote for that candidate!” That has to stop. We have to treat each other as Christ would: with love, respect, and forgiveness.
Opportunity to shape values
This is also a great time to shape values. Teach your kids what makes someone a person with values. Teach them to look not just at what they say, but at their actions. Use that to teach them how we should act and respond. Don’t shy away from questions about values. “Evangelical leaders” have endorsed multiple candidates, and they all cite “values.” Explain to your kids what the Bible says, and show them how various candidates may live that out. You look on either side of the aisle at multiple political levels and you see lying, slander, perpetuating highly unethical activity, and more. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about one candidate here. So teach your kids about un-Christlike behavior and how we can be more like Him. But, do it carefully. Do it in love, and make sure you model Christ when you are teaching this. A good way to do that is to never paint your preferred candidate as “perfect.” Explain values in the person that you support that need to be worked on to be more like Christ. In fact, teaching your kids about why none of the candidates is perfect is a great springboard into a conversation about sin, salvation, and improving your walk with Christ. Use that opportunity!