Election 2016 Requires More Than a “Fight or Flight” Response

The fight or flight response is not limited to our daily business demands or family disputes. It’s evident in our political discussion as well. As Facebook continues to be the number one “editor” of published media, we see friends and family choosing a fight or flight response on everything political.

You likely have friends that are still beating the war drums - sharing angry or defensive outbursts as a new hashtag emerges on Facebook and Twitter. These posts are often harsh and over simplified. They make sweeping generalizations that appeal to the people who think the same way they do.

And you likely have connections that have resigned to the flight response. Perhaps they’ve posted something satirical like, “Because Facebook changes so many political views, please keep sharing your opinion.”  The tongue in cheek response is popular and often times even perceived as responsible.

Given the volatile nature of this presidential election, silence almost seems wise in the midst of screams and shouts and angry tweets at 3 am.

But is it wise? Or perhaps a better question, is it Biblical? Can silence be an appropriate response to the violent (both in words and actions) political discussion happening in our country and on our Facebook feeds? Is it good stewardship to simply say nothing?

I admit this question is very personal.

For the last three months I’ve gone underground. I’ve chosen flight because I grew tired of the fighting. Fatigue won.

I think fatigue always wins when we choose between fighting or flying. If we submit to the fight response we grow weary of the defensive maneuvers we must make every day. We’re constantly crafting responses, increasing our blood pressure, and penning reactionary pieces that make our head swim.

On the other hand, if we submit to the flight response, we get tired of the hermit life. We can tell ourselves we don’t “need politics” or that “our voice just doesn’t matter” but our minds were meant to engage. We are wired to care about the community we live in. And politics presses deeply into the fabric of our community.

We are often caught either excluding politics from God’s redemptive plan or claiming we can make all things new on our own.

The fight or flight response is real but it’s not usually holy or helpful. But what’s the alternative we’re called into? What is a holy response to a violent political debate?

Meekness.

In 2007, Richard Kauffman compiled a piece for Christianity Today titled “Blessed are the Meek”. In the short article, Kauffman pulls insight from various Christian leaders on the simple but profound verse given in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”

In the article, Simon Tugwell, offers this insight on the often rushed over beatitude,

 “If it is the meek, the helpless, the disabled, who will inherit the earth, this is perhaps because the earth, God's earth, the real earth, can be had on no other terms. It is a gift. Or, in the words of the beatitude, it is an inheritance.”

And that inheritance begins now.

While we wait for the kingdom that is to come, and pray for God’s healing to touch our communities, we must meekly accept that God intends the earth to be our inheritance. This inheritance began in Genesis 2 when God first formed man. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

We are charged with taking care of the earth and our communities. And the best way to take care of others is through meekness. At the core of meekness is our call to submit to God’s plan for the earth. Meek people humbly submit that Jesus’ death and resurrection has started to make things new indeed.

We cannot restrict the channels that God will use to create this newness nor can we assume sole responsibility to create this newness. Yet, the fight or flight response tempts us in both directions. We are often caught either excluding politics from God’s redemptive plan or claiming we can make all things new on our own.

But neither are sustainable and neither are Biblical.

When we run from politics or run to it as God, we forsake the redemptive narrative of the empty tomb and a risen Lord. He will make all things new. And if we rejoice in our meekness, if we submit to this promise and call, we will have the joy of being on the inside of this new thing. We will have the ability to engage in discourse with wisdom and with patience. We will reject hopelessness but submit our political process to prayer.

We will start to believe that God cares about our communities and therefore, cares about politics. We will neither find our source of hope in politics nor run from the discourse. If we remember the blessing of the meek, we will engage politics with sympathy, energy, and renewed optimism.

And who doesn’t need some of that this election cycle?

-David is a writer and content strategist living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can learn more about him and his work here.