Last Friday, both chambers of Congress passed an infrastructure bill that will commit more than one trillion dollars to America’s deteriorating roads and bridges, making life easier for pedestrians and bikers, improving broadband access, and renovating suffering public transit systems.

This bill has been closely tied to Biden’s Build Better Back, legislation that would invest heavily in climate change and social policies. While the bill had passed the Senate in July, Progressive Democrats in the House had wanted to hold out on passing the bill until Build Better Back first passed.

But mustering support for that initiative has been challenging for Democrats, including from within their own party. Last week, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin suggested his refusal to support the bill was because it didn’t share enough of the other side’s interests.

"While I've worked hard to find a path to compromise, it's obvious: Compromise is not good enough for a lot of my colleagues in Congress. It's all or nothing, and their position doesn't seem to change unless we agree to everything," Manchin said in a press conference.

Though Manchin and fellow Democrat Arizona senator Krysten Sinema have insisted that their holding out is part of a commitment to look out for the interests of everyone, some suggest that their posture is actually selfish.

"It is simply not fair, not right that one or two people say: My way or the highway," said Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

Amy E. Black is professor of political science at Wheaton College and author of several books, including Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason.

Black joined global media manager Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen to discuss what compromise is, why Christians often make it harder for Christian leaders to practice it, and why politicans have become so loathe to work across the aisle.

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Music by Sweeps

Quick to Listen is produced Morgan Lee and Matt Linder

The transcript is edited by Faith Ndlovu

Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode #288

Starting with the basics, what is compromise and what is not compromise?

Amy Black: That's so important because this word has become such a boogeyman for so many people as if compromise is evil. But what I think is important for us to remember is that compromise is pretty much a part of our daily lives. So, when we talk about compromise, what we're really talking about is reaching an agreement when we have differences. It's a helpful process for navigating life together because frankly, we all have differences. There are times, and it's nice, but rare when everyone agrees, we have a unanimous agreement and we can move forward, but there are lots of times when not everyone agrees.

There are three possible options. One; someone can force a decision and that's what we usually call authoritarianism or domination and if someone forces the decision, lots of people are unhappy and basically, no one except the person making the decision has agency. If we can’t agree, nothing happens so we just have a stalemate or a third option, and this is the way of compromise. We can find a way to compromise, and we reach an agreement that everyone can live with. When we talk about compromise, usually we're talking about two essential pieces. One is that we're coming into something where there's willful opposition.

People have differences of opinion and you're coming together to resolve those differences and as you do, there's mutual sacrifice. We are on opposing sides perhaps, but we can come together and each side sacrifices some of what they want to get something good.

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We accept compromises in our daily lives often I think without even realizing that we are “compromising”, because this is how we get along with one another and even more importantly, I would say, this is how we love each other well, anyone who is acting in places where they are not all alone, all of us living in community. All of us are probably compromising every day on little things, and we don't even think about it, but it does make our life together more peaceful and frankly more possible.

Ted Olsen: If politics is about generally trying to seek the common good, one of the things we have seen in culture, whether it's reality or perception is that poll data shows that people feel like they have radically different views than the “other side” about what the common good is.

One survey from last November during the election period showed that 80% of Biden voters, 77% of Trump voters said, “not only do we have different priorities when it comes to politics, but we fundamentally disagree about core American values.”

Is politics about reaching a consensus about things for the common good? Is it about finding where our areas of the common good overlap? Is it about some things that are not for the common good, where it's harmful to society but it could be voted for, and we'll do something else that will ameliorate the negative effects of that?

What is compromise when we say it in a polarized political environment?

Amy Black: Something that might be helpful is just to realize that there are different kinds of issues that we debate in politics, and I think what's happened is we've conflated them. The social science terms which are complicated or wrong, hard issues, and easy issues are what we call them, but let me explain what we mean. When we talk about political issues, I think it's important to recognize what is the point of disagreement. A lot of times in a lot of our rhetoric we immediately go to, “they are wrong, I am right. I'm on the side of the angel. They are evil” before we even know if we disagree or not. So, when we talk about issues it's super important that we discuss ends and means, goals, and ways that we achieve those goals. There are some issues, and these are the issues in which I would say we probably can't compromise, or it's going to be much more difficult to compromise. There are issues in which we disagree on the end goal, what I think is for the common good, you do not think is for the common good, that's going to be hard, and a lot of these issues are issues that we think of as classic cultural issues, moral issues. We're going to run into this a lot on issues related to abortion. We're going to run into this a lot on issues related to sexuality.

Sometimes at the end of the day, there's very little or no room to compromise because we just disagree on what we're doing. But so much of what's going on in Congress and infrastructure would fit right into this I think, we're not battling about end goals.

We agree with the end goal, we have a shared sense of common good. We just don't know how to get there. I think most people would agree, poverty's a bad thing and we would like to alleviate it. But we disagree a lot over what's the best policy, what's the best way to help decrease poverty. We don't want violence.

We don't want crime. We don't want terrorism. There are lots of things we don't want, but trying to figure out how to fight terrorism most effectively? How do you fight crime most effectively? What policies are going to help alleviate the effects of crime? Those kinds of questions, super complicated and super difficult.

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But that's where I feel like there's often more room for compromise because if we agree on an end goal, then we recognize we both want to get somewhere and roughly the same place, but we're looking at it differently. If you look at the current bill we're talking about for today, the infrastructure bill, most people in both parties would agree, not everyone, but there's general agreement that American infrastructure is crumbling.

We've tried to get these major infrastructure bills through for many congresses now and have not been successful. So, I think there are people of goodwill in both parties thinking a little investment in roads, bridges, broadband, et cetera, would be a good and necessary thing.

But how much investment, what things qualify as infrastructure, how much to spend, that's where we have to sort of start having those conversations and that's where compromise enters.

Getting into Scripture or theology about this, what examples do we see in the Bible of different folks that we may or may not look up to compromising?

Amy Black: If you want to search for the word “compromise” we're not going to find that in our English translations of the Bible, but we are going to see this practice that I'm talking about, this idea of how we can learn to love one another well. How can we sacrifice our pride? How can we sacrifice our own needs on behalf of others and its throughout Scripture? Let me just give you a few examples. First and foremost, the Bible just says so much about how we should conduct ourselves and how we should live in community. We are told the great commandments; love God and love neighbor and what does it look like to live that out? In 1 Peter, (1 Pet) Peter says that we should live such good lives among the pagans, that they may see your good deeds and glorify God. We are told the way we live our lives matters. People are watching, and this has kingdom consequences.

In Romans 12 (Rom 12), Paul says, “do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone.” That’s not about not needing vengeance or repayment. It’s about trying to live peacefully with people as far as it depends on you, get along, find ways to resolve our differences. In other words, one piece of that might be that idea of compromise.

Galatians 5 (Gal 5) unfortunately speaks to our current politics perhaps more than we want in that. In that chapter, Paul calls us to serve one another humbly in love and I think service and humility are things that we don't see a lot in our politics. He continues, “for the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour one another watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.” Biting and devouring each other strikes me as you could take those words from Galatians and just put them right into our current context.

The most famous part of Galatians 5 (Gal 5) is the fruits of the Spirit. But before Paul encourages us to put on the fruits of the Spirit, he tells us to take off the acts of the flesh. He tells us to move away from that which Satan would have us do. There's a long list but let me just give you the stuff that seems to me that translates directly to how we engage in politics; hatred, discord, jealousy fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and the like. That to me describes so much on social media, so much on the Talk shows on in the evening, on the cable news, and even how people talk about politics with one another, and this is not just other people, this is what we Christians are doing.

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We're showing hatred, we're showing discord, fits of rage and instead, we're called to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That's what we're called to do in everything, in politics, in our home lives, at work, with our friends everywhere and I feel like we've just gotten off that mark.

Morgan Lee: You're mentioning a lot of instances where Paul is giving, these mandates of here's how to make it work with other people. But one of the interesting things that Paul ends up advising on is this situation in 1 Corinthians 8 (1 Cor 8) where there's been food that's been sacrificed to idols and there's disagreement among Christians about whether or not it is appropriate to eat that food.

Can you get into Paul's response or how he advises them to work through that and what that suggests about compromise as well, especially in an area where there's a lot of intense moral and spiritual feelings/convictions about how to act in that particular instance.

Amy Black: That passage is an important one and it's one of many where we see in the early church that there are differences and sometimes the differences can't be resolved yet we see that there's room for healthy differences. In this case, Paul is talking about the fact that some feel like they can eat the food sacrificed to idols and some who cannot. He's trying to remind them that God is above all of this. There's no God but one, he says, “for even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or earth for us there's but one God, the Father from whom all things come.” He's trying to point them to their unity in Christ. So, he's saying, “I know we're going to disagree on this and there are these false gods, but we know we have the true God, but then he also says some people are used to this and this is what they've done and so he's telling us that it depends on their conscience. In the end, he says, “be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to those who are weak, where someone with a weak conscience sees you with all your knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?”

He's talking about this practice being perfectly fine as long as you understand who the true God is, but for others, this could be a stumbling block. For others, this could confuse them in their faith and so he's saying we need to be careful about that and we need to be concerned about the effect that it has on others, particularly others in the faith.

At the very end, he says, “therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again so that I will not cause them to fall.” We have to think about what's the purpose, what's the end that we want to seek here. Paul is saying, we're going to have some disagreements and these disagreements are often going to confuse people. What we want is to say what points people to God, what confirms our unity in Christ, and any simple practice that we have that is not essential to our spiritual life, we can give that up if giving that up is helping our brothers and sisters grow in Christ.

Ted Olsen: You have people who say those are great bible verses when you are talking about brothers and sisters who are united in Christ but what about those who say we are not brothers and sisters?

What you do hear on both left and right is questions about partial justice being injustice, or justice delayed being as justice denied. It is a pretty compelling argument about some of the slowness of civil rights issues moving through the political system that you have a lot of leaders saying cultural change takes a lot of time. Don't push for too much in the legislation and in the meantime, injustice prevails.

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You hear this on abortion the Southern Baptist Convention in their last meeting had a fairly big fight over this resolution that was passed at the convention condemning what has been the dominant pro-life effort over several generations of incremental change and instead the Southern Baptist Convention voted to repent for attempting incremental change on abortion rather than pushing for absolute abolition now.

For those of us who say, “half a loaf is better than none” is that a good principle to operate by? What’s the response that half a loaf is an injustice to the person that needs a full loaf to get their nutrition and survive the day?

Amy Black: This is very much the prevailing analogy, at least in the eighties and into the nineties, this idea of if you want a whole loaf of bread and that's your policy goal and someone else wants something different, if you can get half of that loaf, you haven't gotten the whole loaf of bread yet, but you've at least received part of, you've achieved part of what you wanted to achieve and it's better to achieve some of something than none of something. It doesn't work with absolutely every issue, but I do think that that is a good analogy for thinking about political compromise and even on a tough issue like abortion.

I'm very strongly pro-life. I worked for a pro-life Congresswoman and even got to help work on legislation that we believe moved forward our goals and our concerns. So, on something like abortion I think incremental change often makes sense. I'm not saying it's necessarily the best way I'm saying it's the most likely way.

If you look at abortion, it is a moral issue on which there is significant disagreement. As someone pro-life, I'm going to see that developing life inside of the womb as human life made in the image of God, of infinite worth and value. Someone who disagrees with me from the pro-choice side is wanting to just see it as sort of massive cells and tissue. It's just part of the woman's body until some point, that gets debated, possibly viability, possibly birth. We got some pretty fundamental differences here, but from my position, I'm going to say that's a human life that must be protected and it's an innocent human life that has no agency whatsoever.

So, I want to protect that vulnerable person. If the current law says all abortion is legal and there is something before a legislature restricting some abortions, I would see that most likely I'd have to see the legislation, but probably as a good thing, do I want innocent lives killed?

No, but if this law might prevent 10,000 abortions, I would say we now have 10,000 fewer human lives lost than before. In my mind, that is a moral good and that is something that God would want us to seek. Does it mean I end there? No, but it means that we're looking for opportunities to move forward.

If you look at the abortion statistics, there's been a lot that's gone on. It's been a mix of abortion legislation. There's also been a mix of social service funding, but we've seen abortion rates have gone down a lot in the United States. As someone who's pro-life, I would say that it is a great thing that we have seen fewer innocent lives lost.

Is this compromise in there? Sure. Am I compromising my values? I don't think so because I still am going to finally say we're talking about human lives here made in the image of God, of infinite worth and what we need to do is see how we can protect them and protect as many as we can.

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Morgan Lee: Interestingly, you're talking about this through the lens of abortion or in some ways almost a single issue. To what extent, if you are someone who ended up being animated by a particular issue, does it become a little bit easier to understand how and when to possibly compromise, because it creates almost a hierarchy of priorities.

For instance, you might be fine passing some legislation that you feel like is pro-life even if it increases government spending significantly because you know that ending abortion or fighting back against abortion is your number one concern. We've seen politicians who are ostensibly pro-life and yet at the same time may have significant issues about raising government spending and so they would not pass a particular bill because of concerns about that.

Do you think that it is helpful for Christians to rank the things that are most important to them and then try to see how they can elect officials who carry out those political priorities as to how they rank them?

Is a move towards caring about single issues or using a hierarchy like that a helpful change from the current way which can often result in us getting entrenched in what we would call partisan politics?

Amy Black: There are lots of different ways to approach one's voting choices when we come to an election. We don't have a lot of choices in the United States because of our two-party system, but we still have options and one that you mentioned is this idea of single-issue voting, which is not uncommon, where someone will say there's one issue that is the most important and that's what I care about the most. I will only support someone who is with me on that issue. I understand that and in many ways, respect that my only concern with that is that there's so many issues that are going to come up at different levels that if you only focus on one issue, I think you're also missing a lot of the distinctions and sometimes candidates agree on your one issue so it doesn't help you. I think single-issue voting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I'm just not sure it's the best framework for approaching our elections, particularly as it just doesn't always help you. This idea of having some priority issues, I'm thinking of this, of course, through the prism of my faith, what biblical principles are in play, what do I believe God would seek to have us do? What does it mean to serve the common good? And so what issues are at the forefront for me coming out of those biblical principles and that's a list and it's a list of maybe three, maybe four, maybe five.

There's no magic formula, but I do think that the Holy Spirit is working in our lives and stirs in our hearts about different issues. If you have that list, then you can say, let me evaluate the candidates on my priority issues and see who lines up the most. Rarely is any candidate going to align with us on every issue?

If you find you align with the candidate on every issue, I would just ask you just to make sure that you're aware because it just seems to me that would be unusual. There are so many complex issues that we have to wrestle with.

So if you have that list of priority issues, I think that is a great way to help evaluate candidates and I like it far better than picking a party and going with a party full stop because party issues change, party values change, party priorities change. We've seen that in the past 10 years a lot.

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What I want is allegiance to be to Christ, to God and his principles, to what it means for us to be followers of Christ. That's our first allegiance, not to the Republican Party, not to the Democratic Party. So I need to start with biblical principles, find those issues that align, and then evaluate.

You're gonna evaluate parties that way and you can evaluate candidates that way.

Is there ever a time when we should not be willing to work with people with who we may disagree on other issues?

Amy Black: I just have a hard time seeing how that stance is helpful. It seems to me that we should be listening to everyone. Respecting other people's views doesn't mean we have to agree with them, but look to partner. I guess one way you could even look at it is by using a war metaphor. So my enemy, the person who’s against me, I don't want you to hear that I think that someone who views something different in politics than me is my enemy, but many do. What would the Bible say about our enemies? It says, love your enemies.

We're to love those who persecute us. It doesn't say heap hatred back on them. It doesn't give us that path at all. It's not always going to be possible to work with people with whom we disagree, but it often can be and I think that's just both a political opportunity to move forward and a super opportunity for people of faith.

It's a beautiful opportunity for Christian witness to say, “we fundamentally disagree on this issue. I'm pro-life or pro-choice and we're just going to have an impasse on almost everything related to that, but I do share some of your views here on social spending and I'm concerned about those single mothers and how they can care for their children. I'm concerned about early childhood education and I'm concerned about childhood poverty. Let's work together on those issues.” To me, it's just an opportunity to build community and to help us to show our love for them. Our love for neighbor also comes out in the political positions we take and the political policies that we pursue but it also comes out in how we engage in politics.

If it's politician with politician, elected official with elected official trying to reach compromise on legislation, or if it's individuals interacting on social media, it should all be about love for neighbor.

Ted Olsen: The American political system is also not just about every particular vote but there's a short-term view and there's a long-term view. So thinking through the strategy where, because we're in a two-party system, it does seem to me that there is some legitimacy to saying, “I think that this party is heading generally in the wrong direction and the more legislative wins, the more political wins that they receive and the more momentum that party gets, the more the country and that party head in a wrong direction, even if I may agree with the specificities of this particular bill.

If I'm a member of Congress, there would be a strategic goal for opposing something that you might otherwise think is fine or you can meet them halfway on this if we were hoping to create common good on this particular issue, but because I'm thinking that the party is heading in the wrong direction on all sorts of other issues that I disagree with, I don't want them to get wins.

It sounds like from our conversation that you would be saying, “that's not a great attitude to have. That's not a good Christian strategy.” Am I reading you right or do you think that's a legit strategy?

Amy Black: I understand and can sympathize with the idea that if you see a particular party going in what you believe is the wrong direction, that you're hoping that they won't succeed. I think we definitely in that case should be supporting, campaigning, or voting for candidates of the other party if you will.

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But I think when it comes to governing, that's just not the way to go about it. What's happening right now in Congress is pretty simple and that is Republicans do not work with Democrats and Democrats do not work with Republicans and that's pretty new.

Compromise is super difficult right now, especially in Congress because the leaders in both parties have decided we're going to take a firm party line, and we want everyone in the party to vote together. If you are a good Democrat, you are going to vote the Democratic line. If you are a good Republican, you're going to vote the Republican line and we will not tolerate anyone who does otherwise.

That's been the model for the last 10 years. In the not too distant past, Republicans and Democrats worked together, particularly Moderates and Democrats controlled the house for over a generation. Republicans would have been shut out if they didn't seek to work across the aisle. But what we saw is that members from both parties worked together on a lot of major legislation.

Democrats of course had more say because they had the majority, but Republicans also had a voice. They also had a chance to be a part of the process. So they were able to help shape public policy. If you're concerned that the other party is going in the wrong direction, maybe you should see if you can work with them, point out what you think is problematic, steer them. Let's say they're going 180 degrees in the wrong direction, maybe you can move them to 90 degrees in the wrong direction. That's at least gotten them closer to what you think is the right direction. I just think it is about, we have to find ways to work together and when we start demonizing the other party, when we start thinking that we're at war, pride is a lot of that too.

I am right. You are wrong. God is on my side and Satan is on yours. We must vanquish this evil. Pretty soon we're into death threats. This is contemporary politics, so I think we have to move away from these “us” versus “them” constructions and we have to move in a direction where we realize we're going to fundamentally disagree on a lot of stuff, but we also can work together on a lot of stuff because what's happened in this decade or so, that has been kind of all or nothing, all Republicans, all Democrats will wait till the next election and we're going to win and we don't want you to help us because we don't want you to get any credit that has led to something we call a stalemate.

Congress has not been able to accomplish much. If we want our elected representatives to be able to pass new policy, if we want them to move forward, it helps to have legislation and ultimately practically, historically, it just seems to work better when you have both sides contributing truly bipartisan legislation.

Morgan Lee: For many Democrats, Joe Manchin is the reason why legislation is not getting passed right now and Joe Manchin may be saying he wants to involve himself with the other side. But for many Democrats, Joe Manchin is being arrogant and is wielding his power in a way that feels inappropriate. He is in many ways denying Democrats the ability to be able to pass some of Biden's legislation that it appears otherwise they would be able to pass given that they do have the votes to pass that if he decided to get along with the program. In a quote, he says, “I've worked hard to find a path to compromise. Its obvious compromise is not good enough for a lot of my colleagues in Congress. It's all or nothing and their position doesn't seem to change unless we agree to everything.”

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In trying to embrace the spirit of compromise, is this the type of leadership on this issue that we would want to use as a model?

Amy Black: We're in a very interesting position with Joe Manchin and of course, Kristen Sinema is right there as well. We have a 50, 50 Senate and if we have a 50 50 Senate, that means that voters in 50 elections voted Republicans into the Senate, and voters in 50 elections voted Democrats into the Senate.

Sometimes we even forget that there are voters behind all of this. We're at this very narrow list of possible margins in the US Senate and it didn't just happen overnight. There are discrete choices behind that so we've got this 50 50 with this evenly split Senate.

So as I mentioned before, right now the politics are all or nothing with each party and you see this very strongly in both parties. It doesn't mean every member of the caucus is going to go along, but pretty much most of them do. I would say we've got a lot of my way or the highway politics from the party leaders.

They expect all of their members to vote in lockstep. They leave no room for compromise. I am the Republican leader and I tell you, you must vote with us and you may not vote with them. I am the Democratic leader, and I say, you must vote with us and you may not vote for them. There's no space for compromise in that posture.

So what's interesting to me here is that any of the Republicans, any of the Democrats in the Senate can defect from falling the party line if they want. They always have been able to, and it's how it's almost always worked. They just aren't doing so because the party pressure is so strong and they are so scared of the implications that they're going to go on lockstep.

So Manchin and Sinema, part of it are because they are Moderates, but probably these two figured out, “we're willing to negotiate. We're willing to talk to the other side they're telling us not to, but what's going to happen. And if I'm the only one willing to negotiate, if I'm the only one willing to be a part of this, that positions me well to figure out what I think my constituents need and to get what I want because everyone is now looking to me.”

That's what they're doing. Manchin has a lot of power. He's probably the most powerful member of the Senate right now because of this unique position he's in as the only one who's going to move away and Sinema is starting to do that and it may or may not work with their constituents so we can see in the next election.

I have a feeling it's going to work well for Manchin since he comes from a very Republican state, he's protected West Virginia interests in a lot of this compromising. Here's the thing though, any other senator can be joining them. It's not as if they're the only ones who could be part of this compromise and it seems to me that 5 or 6 Republican senators or 5 or 6 Democratic senators saying they want to be a part of this too. Some of this is happening behind the scenes. Don't get me wrong. There's been a lot of compromise going behind the scenes, but we're focusing a lot on Manchin and Sinema because they're most public about it and they often end up being the last person that has to be included. It's a super interesting political dynamic, but we have to remember they're not there on their own because of the choice they made. They're there because the voters have given us a 50, 50 Senate and they're there because 98 of the other members of the chamber aren't willing to compromise on much of anything.

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Ted Olsen: Do you see that lack of compromise being more representative of a shift to passion, to a shift to ideas that they care about, a shift to take a stand, ideological strength? It seems to me that the people who are saying don't compromise are basing that a little bit on standing for what they believe in.

Do you see this split towards more ideological rigor as being a move away from politics as a game view or a move toward politics as a game because we know a lot of folks in politics who get this mindset of how many wins they can rack up? It becomes a little bit less about the common good and becomes a little bit more about sports teams.

Do you see what's going on right now with less compromise and a little bit more hardening on the left and the right as a move away from that view or a move that is happening because more people are viewing politics as a game and war?

Amy Black: I think this is a move toward further gamesmanship and further war mentality. There are so many men and women in Congress that are there with a heart for public service, with a heart for the common good, with a heart for serving their constituents.

But there are a lot of folks that want to win at all costs and public service is probably not that high up on the list of what they're doing and why they're there. When our margins have been so narrow and we have seen party control flipping of these chambers fairly often because they're going in lockstep within the parties, they have made the decision, we're going to make sure that we win at all costs and that the other party gets nothing that can even be remotely seen as a win or a benefit. It’s all for us all against them. We don't want to work with them because they are the enemy and we don't want the enemy to win. That's a very common mindset right now in Washington.

Again, not everyone feels this way, but there is that piece. You have to amplify it through all of the different forms of communication that we have. There are a lot of passionate voters out there. There are also a lot of not so sure sometimes they show up to vote they don't. Those are often the ones that decide our presidential elections, but those passionate voters that you compromise because you're compromising your values, even though they may not understand the nuance of what they're having to say, those kinds of voters are the ones that show up in primary elections. Those are the ones that show up in the first step of our process, who pick the party's candidate. So a lot of our politicians have just decided we're going to play to our base. We're going to play to those primary voters and we do whatever they ask.

Primary voters in both parties tend to be more ideologically extreme. They tend to be the least likely to be interested in compromise and they have a sense of ideological purity that’s motivating them. If we add all this together, it becomes a big giant game. I play fantasy football. I love professional sports. I think there's a lot of room for some fun and games, but I think we've moved too far from what is the purpose of representative democracy and what is the role of our elected officials?

They are here as our representatives to try to do what they think is best for their constituents and their country, to make hard choices, to use the extra knowledge and wisdom that they're going to gain by being in Washington. Just trying to move us toward the common good. I don't think we're there right now.

Are there some members who act that way? Some senators who are animated that way? Absolutely. But that is not the norm and what we've found is that when current members of Congress go in that direction, the parties can slap them down so fast and you find that sometimes the penalty from the party is just too much.

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In what ways have you observed Christians making it challenging for Christian leaders, politicians, and other church leaders as well to compromise?

Amy Black: One of the things that have happened is that a lot of people, Christians, and of course, people outside of the Christian faith as well have moralized lots of political issues that aren't necessarily about underlying questions of right and wrong and so there are battles in politics.

It's not just a battle, but it's a battle that we're fighting for all that is good and we're fighting against evil, and who wants to compromise with evil, who wants to work with those who are evil? Those phrases are some of the things we've already been discussing in this conversation.

The posture right now for so many and I think well-meaning, it's true in the sense of this is what God wants and I want to be on God's side, and they forget the means and ends here. They forget that the way that we conduct ourselves in public and in private is important to God.

They forget the call to Christian character. Fruits of the Spirit are out of the way they're just at war. How does this make it challenging for other Christian leaders? If people are telling you, you can't compromise or you are somehow not a good Christian, if that's the message that's being sent and it's being sent powerfully, it's hard for pastors and other Christian leaders to try to seek dialogue across differences, to hold a more nuanced view. They're demonized, they get death threats, this is real. If Christians in the name of their religion are sending death threats to another Christian with whom they disagree, we've gotten off the rails here.

We can get far off course when we're in that all-or-nothing good versus evil mindset. So, I think what we need to do is we need to walk back our rhetoric. We have to approach politics with more humility. We have to see that those who disagree with us are image-bearers of God, too, that they deserve our respect.

Even if we think they're our enemies, they're still people we're called to love and they're also still people made in the image of God. I think there are a lot of Christians on both sides that just abandoning biblical principles when it comes to political engagement because it doesn't matter how I just need to win and then we'll get this end goal and God will be happy at the end goal.

So, they're angry. They're bitter, they're prideful, they're hateful and somehow this is okay. I think because they think they're on God's side, but that's not what God calls us to do. That's not what Jesus modeled for us in his life and ministry on earth. We have to model the fruits of the Spirit and what they do.

It's so hard for pastors. It's so hard for Christian leaders when they are just feeling, they're not just feeling under attack, they are under attack and so we have to pull ourselves out of this destructive mindset and I think there is a pretty easy way to do that.

It comes from Jesus himself. We need to just look at the golden rule if we would do unto others, as we would have them do unto us. If that was the way we approached our politics, our rhetoric, and our social media, this would be a completely different environment. It would be a better environment for us as Christians. It'd be a better environment for our Christian witness. It would put much less pressure on our pastors and our leaders who are trying to navigate these incredibly difficult political waters.