As the 2016 election season continues to push public discourse to a fever pitch, many Christians are wondering if politics is even worth the trouble. For Bruce Ashford, the answer is clear: absolutely—provided that we can keep our cool. A professor, blogger, author, and church elder, Ashford has written extensively on how the church can be a champion of convicted civility in the public square—all, he insists, in the interest of bringing the United States to “a missionary encounter with the gospel.”

On this week’s episode of The Calling, CT managing editor Richard Clark sat down with Ashford to talk about the “why” and “how” of responsible Christian political participation. Here’s a taste of what he had to say:

On Christians’ vanishing majority status: “When you’re the majority, you’re just free to tell people what to do, not to define your terms as much—you assume that they understand what you mean by the word ‘God’ or ‘sin’ or ‘Jesus.’ But when you realize that you’re living in the middle of a pagan nation, then you have got to work hard to exegete the culture, to understand the idols and ideologies of the day, to understand how those have shaped the people to whom you minister—and then to think really hard about how you interface the gospel with that culture. We’ve got to learn how to do that in the United States.”

On towing the party line: “Every modern political ideology tends to be idolatrous.”

On angry Facebook commenters: “I just want to go steal the all-caps and exclamation point keys off of their keyboards. It’s the metaphorical equivalent of a guy walking into the public square just sweating and shouting for twelve or fifteen hours at a time. Even if you agreed with the guy, you don’t want to come near the public square because he’s so obnoxious. That’s our tendency and temptation right now.”

On the ‘softness’ of civility: “Christians, of all people, should be able to act civilly, and not just civilly, but with love....Civility is not softness; civility is toughness. You can make your point, and you can be tough with it, but it can be framed in a gracious manner.”

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The Calling is produced by Richard Clark and Cray Allred.

Theme music by Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons 4.0.