A Foundation for Friendships in Politically Contentious Times

Micah Watson, co-author of C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law, has some good words for these alarmingly politically contentious times in “C.S. Lewis and Aristotle on Civic Friendship.” He points out that it’s natural for political views to strain friendships. Since friendships are about “a commitment to the other person’s good,” which requires “a shared understanding of what is good,” political disagreements with friends about what is good are deeply unsettling: “Our politics reflects our sense of what’s good, and that’s intensely personal.”

But, he says, as Christians, we need not “allow what is instrumentally valuable (politics) to poison what is intrinsically valuable (people, relationships)”:

[F]riendship [with those with whom we disagree] could be useful and perhaps even enjoyable, but most importantly it partakes in the good of the other because we can agree that one component of our good is respect for others with whom we disagree about other fundamental aspects of the good.

The Christian, however, has a different and deeper source from which to draw in loving her fellow believer and her neighbor. The Christian can offer friendship to the non-believing neighbor, friend, or family member because the Christian is committed to the highest good, which is a who rather than a what. The neighbor who is made in God’s image bears a relationship to the Good that requires even more than mere civility, as important as that is. We have it on high authority that we are to love our enemies. Surely this applies to our political adversaries as well.

And when it comes to the Christian who cannot understand why her co-religionist supports him, or stood with her, genuine friendship can still exist, even if frustrating and difficult, because both parties can be committed to the other person’s good, defined and embodied and empowered by the person of Jesus Christ…. [R]elationship with Christ is the greatest supernatural good. This relationship to Christ and to each other as brothers and sisters heightens the tension and offers us the means to live with and through it. It heightens the tension because we cannot see how someone who shares our faith can identify with that party or that person or that position. It offers us the means to live with and through the tension and the contradiction because we can call upon God to help us and our friend come to know the truth about how we should live, and how we should live with others with whom we strongly disagree.

It’s worth reading the rest here.

Amy K. Hall

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