How Neighbors With Conflicting Political Views Stayed Friends

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“We don’t see them as Democrats. They’re the Mitchells. We know they are good people who live next door. We love them.”

In a country where 93 percent of us say civility is a problem, this story in the Wall Street Journal is welcome news. We meet the Gates family, who are lifelong Republicans, and the Mitchells, who are lifelong Democrats. The two families are next-door neighbors in suburban Pittsburgh. The Gates home displays a Trump yard sign; the Mitchell home displays a Biden sign. 

But next to each there is another sign which says, “WE [HEART] THEM” with an arrow pointing to the other family’s home and “One Nation” inside the heart drawing. 

What is the key to such civility among families who disagree politically? 

Each couple has three children, roughly the same ages. They share a love for hockey; the boys play on the same team. They gather for dinner together each Monday evening. As the Journal notes, “They don’t argue. They don’t label each other. They listen to each other’s perspective, look for common ground, and recognize that reasonable and good people can reach different conclusions.” 

Gillian Mitchell, age fourteen, says, “I’m not a voter, but I think people should be mature and not argue all the time or fight. Fighting just leads to more fighting.” 

“One of the best set of hearings” 

The US Senate is expected to vote later today on President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. During a rare Saturday session, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced her support, making it more likely that Republicans will have enough votes to confirm Barrett’s nomination. 

However, as another example of how bitterly divided our partisan politics have become, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted twelve to none last week to advance the nomination to the full Senate. The vote was unanimous only because the ten Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote to protest what they called a “sham process.” 

After Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) thanked committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) last week for presiding over “one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” NBC News reported that “calls for her ouster from Democratic leadership were swift, unequivocal, and relentless.” 

Why Sudan’s agreement with Israel is so historic 

In other news, Israel and Sudan will normalize ties in a US-brokered deal. The agreement is part of what the Wall Street Journal calls “a broader diplomatic realignment in the Middle East.” 

Friday’s announcement follows accords Israel entered last month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Unlike these countries, however, Sudan has engaged in armed conflict with Israel in the past as part of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the 1967 Six-Day War. 

Sudan also hosted the Arab League summit after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War at which eight Arab nations approved what is known as the “Three Nos”—no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel. 

The US designated Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993 for harboring Osama bin Laden and others and accused the African nation of supporting Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. US officials have suspected Iran of using Sudan to smuggle weapons to Hamas militants in Gaza. 

In other words, Sudan’s normalization of relations with Israel is truly historic. US and Israeli officials say they expect Morocco and Oman, along with several other Muslim and Arab nations, to join the so-called Abraham Accords in coming months as well. 

A Persian proverb on peace 

Neighbors who oppose each other politically can still be friends. Judge Barrett’s confirmation would end the divisive process of filling Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacant seat. Sudan and other Arab nations are taking unprecedented steps toward peace with Israel. All of this is good news in our divisive days.  

However, the November 3 election will not end political rancor; some fear that it will only exacerbate tensions. The confirmation of Judge Barrett would not end battles over the Supreme Court, as court-packing could prove an even more divisive issue. Israel’s agreement with Sudan will not lessen the threats posed by Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, and it may exacerbate them. 

As urgent as political peacemaking is, the ultimate key to peace is not political. A Persian proverb quoted by Cal Thomas in his new book, America’s Expiration Date, is still relevant: “There can never be peace between nations until it is first known that true peace is within the souls of men.” 

The prophet said to God, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus told his disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33). Paul testified, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). 

How to “become a loving person” 

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss some practical ways we can experience and share God’s peace in our divided culture. For today, let’s seek to be at peace with the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Ask your Lord to show you anything that is keeping you from “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), then confess any sin or take any step he brings to mind. Ask the Spirit to produce the “fruit” of peace in your spirit (Galatians 5:22). 

Then determine to give others what God has given you. Frederick Buechner noted that by God’s sanctifying grace, “the forgiven person starts to become a forgiving person, the healed person to become a healing person, the loved person to become a loving person.” 

Will you be a “loving person” today?

The Denison Forum exists to thoughtfully engage the issues of the day from a biblical perspective. Jim Denison speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues. He is a trusted author and subject matter expert in areas where faith and current events intersect.

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