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How to Survive Election Season

An In Touch guide to better spiritual health

Kaitlyn Scheiss and In Touch Ministries staff May 22, 2024

How many times did you hear someone say, “I am dreading 2024”? Long before the turn of the year, people have been expressing their frustration and exhaustion over another election season. And now it’s here.

Illustrations by Abbey Lossing

Many of us have experienced the way that politics can divide our families and unsettle our communities. As Christians, we have every theological reason for participating in political life: The people of God work toward the flourishing of the larger creation (Gal. 6:10), and politics is not outside the realm of God’s care (Rom. 13:1-7). And yet we have all seen colorful examples of the ways that our political participation can harm us—consuming our attention, determining our theology, and harming our relationships.

So, as we approach another election season, we need better resources for surviving this trying time—and maybe actually thriving. We’ve put together this guide to help you listen for God’s voice amidst all the loud, opinionated ones. The goal is not to steer you away from every election-related conversation or piece of news but to equip you with real tools for engaging with politics in a healthier way—one that gives life and peace.

Evaluate Your Media Consumption

Our political life is shaped by the media we consume: podcasts, social media, cable news, and radio, to name just a few. We learn the stories that politicians and pundits want to sell us—stories about who we are, who “belongs” in our community, what’s fundamentally wrong with the world, and how they will fix it. From campaign ads to news segments to social media sound bites, we are bombarded with information, emotion, and storytelling.

Before an election season, it’s always wise to spend some time doing a media consumption audit:

  1. First, think through a normal day for you, noting every time you consume media of any kind, even if it’s not explicitly political. What times of day do you consume media? What format is it in? How does it make you feel?

  2. Then pick one or two specific examples (such as a news program you regularly watch or a podcast you listen to) and ask yourself these questions:

    • What does this media make me love? What does it make me hate?

    • What does this media think I should fear? And whom does it think I should fear?

    • Whom does this media help me see as my neighbor? Whom does it tempt me to view with suspicion or disgust?

    • What does this media make me want most—for myself? For my community? For the world? What solution does it present to the world’s problems?

As you ponder these questions, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and help you answer honestly. Then consider discussing your reflection with someone you trust—a family member, friend, mentor from church—to help you evaluate how that media is shaping you.

(If you find yourself consistently provoked to anger or anxiety by a specific news anchor or social media account, consider taking a break from it. Whether your hiatus is one day or one month, take a moment afterward to reflect on what you gained and lost in that time.)

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

We tend to think that when it comes to politics, we’re just dealing with facts. We evaluate candidates by making a pro/con list of their positions and qualifications; we evaluate policies by reading data; we choose our political parties by objective standards. But in reality, politics (like all of human life) is also about emotion and storytelling.

Just as we can prepare for media consumption by paying attention to emotions and stories, the same is true for political conversations. If a social media post evokes a strong reaction from you or you feel your temperature rising during a conversation after church, explore that feeling—even if it means setting aside time later for reflection. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Did that conversation make me feel threatened? Why?

  • Why do I feel as if I need to defend that politician? Do I identify with him or her? Do I think this individual represents something important?

  • Why did I feel angry when that politician was mentioned? What am I worried he or she will do to me, my family, or my country?

  • Why is this policy or idea important to me? Is it connected to my own story or background? What do I assume about people who take the position opposite mine?

  • Why does it make me angry or scared or sad when someone I love thinks differently than I do? Why is it hard for me to talk about this topic with this person? 

Our feelings are not bad, but they can be misleading. Evaluating them does not mean that we must squash them down or that we automatically take them as accurate descriptions of reality. Instead, emotions can help us know when to dig deeper. Paying attention can help us have healthier conversations in the future, as we begin to notice what our emotions are telling us about the deeper causes of our disagreements. 

Think Small

In an election season, we focus predominantly on national politics. We can spend hours reading about presidential campaigns, fights in Congress, and impending Supreme Court decisions. Those things can be important, but the truth is that most of us have little ability to make significant changes at that level. Instead, our engagement with national policy more often fuels anger and resentment, teaching us to treat politics like a game where we want our team to win.

But politics happens at all levels—from neighborhood associations and school boards to city councils and state legislatures. As we approach an election season, thinking locally can help keep us grounded and neighborly. Here are some practical suggestions for local politics:

Build relationships with your literal neighbors. If we want to see change in our communities, it starts with relationships.

  • Reach out to a neighbor you’ve never met before, perhaps with an invitation for dinner and friendly conversation.

Get familiar with your ballot before an election. Your local board of elections or state government should provide a sample ballot, which you can find online. Learn about the local offices you will vote for: positions like mayor, county commissioner, school board, sheriff, lower court judges, and representatives in the state legislature. You might have to learn what these roles even are before you learn about candidates!

Show up to a city council meeting, listening session, or community organization meeting. Come ready to listen and learn, and meet other people in your community. It’s important to remember you’re joining a conversation that’s been going on for quite some time (though you probably weren’t aware of it). You can and should add your voice, but make sure to prioritize listening and learning first.

  • Social media is a great way to find out when and where these meetings are happening. If you don’t already, follow your local offices on Facebook or Instagram. Just search for “City of _____” or “_____ County.”

Don’t try to be an expert on everything. Pick one or two issues to focus on, research, and support.

  • Your best choice is usually an issue that directly impacts your daily life or the community in which you live. For example, if you have school-age children, you could decide to attend a school board meeting. Or maybe the intersection around the corner is dangerous for pedestrians, so you might choose to email your local councilperson. Advocating for change is easier when you have skin in the game.

It’s essential to remember that your political life is so much more than one vote for president every four years—it includes fostering relationships in your community, voting for local offices, volunteering at soup kitchens or pregnancy care centers, and working with your church to serve your community.

Go Old School

It seems that every election season, we feel as if we need to reinvent the wheel. We think a new curriculum, program, or magical solution can solve the challenges of this divisive time. Perhaps what we need instead is to ground ourselves in the habits and practices that the church has always relied upon: prayer, Scripture reading, silence, fasting, and feasting.

Prayer. Throughout the election season, pray regularly and specifically for the issues that are captivating your attention, the politicians battling it out on the campaign trail, and the neighbors and friends who disagree with you. Pray for your community, your pastors, and your own heart. Pray that Christ would come again and make everything right.

  • Don’t feel as if you have to set aside special prayer time during election season (though you certainly can). You can let surroundings prompt your prayers—when you walk by a campaign sign, when a Facebook post makes you anxious, or when you hear debates on TV, speak to God about it.

Scripture reading. God’s Word speaks not only to political situations, but to the various temptations and challenges human communities face when they’re at odds. Continue your routine of Scripture reading, and wherever you might find yourself in the biblical canon, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. The Bible’s wisdom will apply in election season just as it does in every other season of life.

Silence. In a culture where we are surrounded by noise, it’s essential to spend time in silence. Take breaks from social media. Turn off the TV. Sit quietly with God. Stillness doesn’t have to be monumental—it could be as simple as the short car ride home after dropping your kids off at school.

Fasting. The church has often met challenging circumstances with fasting and prayer. Fasting helps us remember that we are small and weak, that we need God’s provision of daily bread to physically survive. As we watch politicians and pundits promise to protect and provide for us, fasting helps us remember our ultimate dependence upon God.

  • Fasting doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start with a simple act, like not eating meat one or two days a week.

Feasting. We often forget that there is more feasting in the Bible than fasting. Sometimes our best weapon against the fear and anger of election seasons is time eating food with people we love. Whether you organize a potluck with neighbors or split a pizza with a friend, decide to spend time around the table with people in your community.

Remember the Resurrection

Every election year, we hear the same foreboding claim: “This is the most important election in our lifetime.” Political leaders want to raise the stakes to encourage participation, using fear to motivate hesitant voters. Much of politics runs on the idea that if we do not elect the right leaders, win the big court case, or finally push through the right legislation, our world will fall apart. We’re made to feel that it’s up to us to fix everything, and that responsibility weighs heavily on our shoulders.

But as Christians, we believe that the most important event in human history has already happened. Jesus Christ, the just and true Ruler of all creation, was crucified, died, and rose again. We live in light of this one stunning miracle—and in hopeful anticipation of the day He will come again in glory.

We can engage in politics from this freedom. Each of us can seek flourishing in our communities—by educating ourselves, building relationships, offering our time and resources, showing up to meetings, and voting—without viewing election results as a life-or-death proposition that rests exclusively on us. Instead, let’s regard our duties of citizenship as an act of worship in response to the God who loved this world enough to enter it on our behalf—and promises to make all things new.

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