Can we apply the Golden Rule to political discussions?

What would happen if we did?

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Golden Rule 2020 - a call to apply this ethical principle to our political discussions

As Americans, we are hungry for a respectful tone in our politics and public life. Many of us are concerned that the hostility and bitter divides we see in the country will be made even worse by the upcoming elections. Golden Rule 2020 was created by a wide range of Christian leaders who believe that applying the ethical principal of the Golden Rule is the best way to bring dignity and respect to our political interactions. It is a simple concept, but one that is challenging to implement, to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” during this difficult election year.

 

Golden Rule is a principle held by many faiths and cultures.  Golden Rule 2020 actively welcomes all people – regardless of their faith.

The Golden Rule - a personal practice and a practical strategy for change

1) A personal spiritual practice—Following the Golden Rule in interactions with others–even those we disagree with–is a core teaching of many faiths.  The practice of applying this principle in our personal lives and interactions is challenging. And through ongoing personal reflection and conscious application to our interactions, we do find the courage and resolve to build bridges of respect with others.

2) A practical strategy for change–Martin Luther King famously said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness–only light can do that.”  Similarly, hostility, anger and disdain only create more of the same.  Treating someone with dignity and respect changes the nature of the conversation and opens up the possibility of real communication that can change relationships.

I commit to do my best to practice the Golden Rule and treat others with respect and dignity in my political discourse and behavior.

How the Golden Rule changes political discussions

The starting point for applying the Golden Rule in 2020 is the question: “How would I like others to behave towards me when I’m in a difficult political discussion?” There might be a range of answers, but common responses would almost certainly be things like:

  • Show respect for me
  • Listen patiently and with an open mind
  • Don’t call me names or assault my character
  • Do not question my faith or patriotism
  • Don’t exaggerate or distort my views
To apply the Golden Rule means to apply practices like these and other similar principles to our conversations about politics.

Practicing the Golden Rule in Political Discussions

A Three Step Practice

As I begin an interaction in person or online with someone of different political views–or as I am in conversations with friends that might be tempted to demonize or show contempt for those who hold other political views–I will strive to:

  • Stop to take a breath and remind myself of my intention to apply the Golden Rule to political discussions
  • Think of specific ways to apply the Golden Rule in this interaction—(i.e. by being respectful, avoiding name calling, listening to understand, asking genuine questions, and looking for commonalities, etc.)
  • Engage with humility and stay aware of our common humanity
To apply the Golden Rule means to apply practices like these and other similar principles to our conversations about politics.

Prominent Faith-based Leaders and Organizations Support Golden Rule2020

We are Christians with different theological and political views who have come together to express concern about the polarization and incivility that is tearing our country apart. We are also deeply troubled by the prospect of an angry and hateful political campaign season in 2020 that will further divide us as a nation.

We believe that we can find guidance through this national dilemma in the teachings of Jesus. In particular, we believe that Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” should be taken seriously by Christians who engage in political activity. We also believe that if enough people follow this “Golden Rule” principle, it will help generate the respect and civility we so desperately need in our country. Churches have an important role to play in helping to heal America, and we hope and pray that local congregations will be active in efforts to increase understanding and bridge divisions in our country between now and the 2020 election.

To this end, we encourage Christians of different political views to come together on Sunday, November 3, 2019–exactly one year before the 2020 election–to launch Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics. On that day, and throughout 2020, we invite congregations and individuals to do two things: 1) pray for the healing of the divisions in our country, and 2) promote the use of the Golden Rule in our own political discussions and election activities.

Denominational and Organizational Leaders
Supporting Golden Rule2020

  • Dr. Paul Baxley—Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Director
  • Most Rev. Timothy P. Broglio—United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on International Justice and Peace
  • Galen Carey—National Association of Evangelicals, Vice President
  • Most Rev. Michael B. Curry—The Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop and Primate
  • Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane—United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human
    Development
  • Bishop Elizabeth Eaton—Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presiding Bishop
  • Rev. Curtis DeYoung—Minnesota Council of Churches, Director
  • Rev. Mark Ford—Love Akron Network, Founder
  • Don Golden—Red Letter Christians, Executive Director
  • Rev. Jimmie Hawkins—Presbyterian Church USA, Director, Office of Public Witness
  • Shirley Hoogstra—Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, President
  • Rev. Gabriel Salguero—National Latino Evangelical Coalition, President
  • Rev. Lee Spitzer—American Baptist Churches USA, General Secretary
  • Sandy Sorenson—United Church of Christ, Director of Washington Office
  • Ed Stetzer—Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, Director
  • Lance Walker—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Director, Public and International Affairs
Individuals can

Take Action

Congregations can

Take Action

  • Issue a joint statement to the media endorsing Golden Rule 2020 that is signed by pastors and church leaders who have different political views.
  • Conduct a Sunday School lesson on Christian teachings about the Golden Rule or using short non-denominational Golden Rule lesson plans.
  • Invite members of your congregation to an online or in person discussion with people from a more liberal or conservative congregation than yours.
  • Organize a small meeting or joint prayer service with members of another congregation where most people have different political views.

The Golden Rule 2020 Pledge

I commit to do my best to practice the Golden Rule and treat others with respect and dignity in my political discourse and behavior.

Why others took the Golden Rule 2020 Pledge:

I want to change the tone of our national discourse for the better.

Kristen

In these turbulent times, the Golden Rule keeps us in bounds.

Debbie

My anxiety can make me fear my neighbor, I take the pledge as a reminder that we are all God's beloved children

T. Alice

I would like to be able to have civil discussions over different opinions of any topic but especially when discussing political views.

Ken

The rancor in our political discourse in this country is spiritually demeaning. Right now, this country needs hope, love and peace at the core of its spiritual life. If we treat others the way we want to be treated, that would stop a lot of the negativity that is infecting our world.

David

It is a beautiful expression of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

John

The Golden Rule is a way of life and practice for me; I have found it to be helpful in best of times and vital in the most trying of times.

Natalia

I want to help be a part of healing the divisions in our country which has lead to hate filled interactions between fellow citizens.

Millie