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How to Disagree Nicely but Not Lose Your Convictions

Everything is not a biblical issue—but who decides?

A few days after Bill Clinton was elected, I (Rick) was facilitating a small-group leaders’ meeting. One of the leaders whose political convictions leaned strongly Republican suggested that our small groups should have a time of lament in light of the recent election. Some others nodded in agreement. Was this a good idea?

I thought not. I mentioned to the leaders that about 80 percent of evangelicals voted Republican, a fact that most seemed to be aware of. Then I asked all of the leaders to take a sheet of paper and write down the two to three people in their group who were likely to vote Democratic.

There was dead silence. No one picked up their pencils.

Finally, a leader spoke up and said they didn’t think anyone in their group had voted Democratic. I pointed out that if our congregation reflected the national averages for evangelicals, a small group of 12 to 14 people would have three Democrats. I was just asking them to stop and think who those people were and how they would likely feel if we opened up the small group meeting with a season of lament. It was an awkward moment.

The leaders realized that opening the small group with a season of lament might not be welcomed by certain group members. They also realized that prayer times in the past several weeks leading up to the election were probably equally alienating. We had simply been blind to an underlying diversity of political convictions within our groups.

The standard dictionary definition of conviction runs something like this: a fixed or firmly held belief, a belief that we won’t be giving up anytime soon. But we have beliefs like that about arithmetic, and we don’t usually call those convictions. Convictions are not just about garden-variety …

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