When we talk politics, we can’t prepare by seeing it as a debate. We may come better prepared and make better arguments while driving the person further into their position. This conversation isn’t about who has the facts on their side, but rather a deeper conversation.
The person who has arrived at seeing the truth and beauty of the Church’s position on such topics has gone through a process of conversion, which is deeper than changing one’s mind and now believing what the Church believes. It’s instead a change of heart — at our core — where we allow the Gospel message to change us and how we look at the world and our life. Such a change will in time touch all aspects of our life, including the way a person looks at political issues.
So we need to prepare carefully for such conversations. For we are touching upon a sensitive and precious place in a person: the place where God’s grace is working on their heart. God is the ultimate director of one’s conversion. Our role then should be of nudging or encouraging one to follow the grace God is giving to them.
For instance, when a person first discloses their support of a politician because of these positions, we may begin to panic. “What are they saying? I can’t believe they think that. I need to say something to convert them!” Rest assured that God knew this long before we did. Thanking them for sharing and allowing them to perhaps explain some of their reasons for believing as they do can be more effective than immediately confronting them.
From there, we can retreat into prayer. Our prayer should, in part, intercede for their heart and in part seek an appropriate way to approach the topic in the future.
If this is a person we see rarely and don’t have a close relationship with, our role may simply to be a small nudge for God’s grace. If they broach the topic again, perhaps just a brief comment or small pertinent lesson from our journey of conversion may be enough. By not coming across as confrontational or preaching to them, a comment such as this will be more easily taken to heart and pondered over. This is where God’s grace can work and also be an opening for them to approach the topic with us again with perhaps a desire to go into greater depth.
With a closer friend or family member we may open up a more spiritual aspect in the relationship. This may begin by seeing how they receive our sharing something that we heard that was helpful at Mass. If we see an openness and in time more deeply sharing of spiritual things, we then will be in a better position to talk more directly to them on these political issues. We can then talk about how our spiritual journey has influenced us to see these issues as the Church sees them.
Remember, conversion is a process. It may take several conversations over time to see understanding and growth. By this method, though, the person will have accepted it for themselves and be stronger in spreading it to others.
Father Mayo is pastor of St. Raphael Parish in south St. Louis.