Scroll two flicks on Facebook and you are sure to come across a hot take on the presidential election. The first debate is this Monday night and your timeline will be inundated with short incendiary clips of each candidate trading barbs followed by both sides claiming debate victory.
We are both pastors of local churches. We are both teaching the people we shepherd Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. And we both have a growing concern that our congregations can easily get swept into the circus of cynicism and the maddening mockery that has been this election season. Our concern is that cynicism and mockery aren’t markers of God’s salt and light people. Also the vision of the Kingdom we see in the Beatitudes often looks different than the visions of lesser kingdoms the candidates are putting forth.
Here are 8 creative things you might do while watching the presidential debates Monday night. Our aim for these is to cultivate individuals and communities that are salty and bright, and engaging in politics in a way that is doing to others as they would have done to them.
1. Before the debate begins, have everyone make a list of what they think are top priorities for public justice. At the top of the paper make a column for each candidate. During the debate, put plus sign next to that statement if the politician says something that would positively contribute to that issue and a minus sign when they would diminish that area.
2. Imagine the speeches are sermons and the room is a church. If that were the case, what is the idol that each is preaching a sermon about? Discuss during the commercials.
3. Try to imagine if there was a third party that you had to form tonight that would represent public justice and provide a sign of the Kingdom. What would be the platform and who might lead it?
4. Empathy. Watch the debate as if you are someone different than you (Skin Color, Gender, Refugee, Tax Bracket). How would you hear the debate differently?
5. Pray. Spend time praying during the commercials.
6. Evaluate the degree to which the words of the candidate lines up with their past history.
7. Intentionally watch the debate with people you disagree with. Make sure there is at least one Trump supporter and one Clinton supporter in the room. Set ground rules beforehand. Seek to understand the worldview/story that leads them to support their candidate.
8. Gather 30 minutes before the debate and instead of watching the pre-debate hype, read the entire Sermon on the Mount out loud together.
Jim Mullins is on staff with Surge Network and is a husband, dad, pastor, gardener, and resident of Tempe.
Chris Gonzalez, Co-Founder of Surge, were originally posted on the Missio Dei Communities Blog and Flourish Phoenix.