The Psychology of Partisan Politics

Originally Published on:

THE CHIRISTIAN POST

Mon 9 Apr 2018 16:36 EDT

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Partisan politics are alive and well in America today. From negative ad campaigns to political soundbites, examples of partisan politics abound. Julia Azari wrote of the great political divide in her January 19, 2018 article, “We’re now one year into the Trump era, and politics seems more nasty, divided and polarized than ever.”

Social media has become a hot bed of partisan mudslinging from both sides of the political aisle. In fact a Pew Research Center article published February 23, 2017 stated, “Partisan criticism generates most engagement in social media.” They went on to say, “Critical posts get more likes, comments, and shares, than other posts.” One political meme circling social media askes the question, “What if Hillary Clinton had five children with three husbands, and had openly cheated on the first two? Would constatives overlook it like they do Trump?” Another picturing Hillary Clinton reads, “I don’t understand, I thought we had killed everyone who had dirt on us.” Yet another displays a picture of a young Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton standing together smiling. It reads, “Straight out of options.”

Social welfare, Involvement of the U.S. in global affairs, gun control, and LGBTQ rights are just some of the countless items that divide Americans. Have you ever stopped to wonder how the country got so polarized? Would it surprise you to learn that there are psychological causes for much of the partisan politics in America today?

One of the many psychological causes of partisan politics is politicians and political pundits who tend toward narcissism. According to a March 15, 2018 MSN Lifestyle article, “Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), in general, refers to traits central to that of a sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, an unrealistically high self-esteem and an expectation that others will comply with and validate their self-worth.” This combined with elected officials in high places is a recipe for division.

On August 11, 2017 Phycology Today defined whole object relations and object constancy in an effort to explain (NPD). Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D. wrote, “Whole Object Relations: This is the capacity to see oneself and others in a stable and integrated way that acknowledges both the person’s good and bad qualities. Object Constancy: This is the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection to someone that you like while you are angry, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by his or her behavior.” Dr. Greenberg went on to say that without “whole object relations” and “object constancy” people with (NPD) can only see themselves and other people in one of two ways: either they are special and unique, or they are defective or worthless.

Without the ability to see those with differing views in an integrated way politicians and pundits fall into a thinking error called, “dichotomous thinking.” This is a kind of black or white, or all or nothing thinking. Dichotomous thinkers believe that you are good or evil, the best or the worst, amazing or awful. This leads to statements like, “My opponent wants seniors to die,” and, “My opponent is for dirty water and polluted air.”

Another psychological cause of partisan politics is, “Awfulizing.” According to the Phycology Dictionary, “Awfulizing refers to an irrational and dramatic thought pattern, characterized by the tendency to overestimate the potential seriousness or negative consequences of events, situations, or perceived threats. AWFULIZING: “A person who engages in awfulizing, likely predicts the most catastrophic outcome in every circumstance.”

One modern example of this can be found in the conservative response to the Obama presidential election. According to an October 13, 2017 article in the Chicago Tribune, “13 percent (41 million people), thought “Obama is the antichrist.” In September of 2016 rumors abounded on social media that Obama would not step down from office if Trump were elected president. This was fueled in large part by a satirical article published by The Burrard Street Journal.

At the close of 2017 we saw another example awfulizing when some liberals played Chicken Little screaming, “The sky is falling,” over the issue of net neutrality. It was believed that the FCC’s vote would mean higher prices for consumers to access the websites they visit the most and worse Americans would not get important text messages from loved ones potentially putting children in danger. The vote was made and the news story died all the while Americans are still getting text messages from their children.

Obama turned out not to be the antichrist who set up his one world order and net neutrality didn’t cripple the economy or put children at risk, and the world somehow marches on. When people think of the worst possible outcome and then convince themselves that it is not only possible but likely to occur, they speak out strongly against it widening the political divide.

Politicians and pundits who lean toward narcissism, dichotomous thinking, and awfulizing are only a few examples of the phycology of partisan politics. Other examples include:

  1. Focusing on the negative. This occurs when your thoughts reflect only the bad in a situation and ignore any of the good. By focusing only on the negative in a politician or political party one will seldom see any good. Seeking to find the positive brings balance and optimism to a world we view far too often as negative.
  2. Fortune Telling. Similar to awfulizing, fortune telling occurs when you predict the worst possible outcome to a situation. This can be seen in the example, “He is going to run this country into the ground.”
  3. Mindreading. Mindreading is another thinking error that leads to polarization of political parties. Mindreading occurs when someone believes they know someone else’s thoughts and motives without any proof.
  4. Personalizing. This occurs when one takes someone’s contrary views as a personal attack. This leads to isolation, division, or counter attacks.
  5. Labeling. Perhaps one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of politics is the label. By labeling something it is easier to pigeon hole or typecast them into something that is easier to hate.

Having examined some of the phycology of partisan politics let us not leave this as an interesting intellectual exercise. Rather, may we examine our own thoughts to see what thinking errors we may be making and how we ourselves may be contributing to the political divide.

What are other contributors to the political divide?  Leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow this blog. 

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Just for Today

Today

I woke up this morning feeling less than enthusiastic about going to work, or even getting out of bed for that matter. My feet still hurt from the uncomfortable dress shoes I worked in all day yesterday. I was feeling cranky in part due to the lack of sleep I got the past few nights, and I wasn’t looking forward to going back into an environment that can be extremely negative.

I reluctantly rolled out of bed, and started my morning routine. That’s when it all changed. The thirtieth chapter of the book of 1 Samuel records an event where King David and his men returned from battle to find that there town had been plundered and their wives and children had been taken captive. The Bible says that the people were bitter in soul and even thought of stoning King David. Remarkably, when all seemed lost, and David was in this great distress, the Bible tells us that David encouraged himself in the Lord. That is what I decided to do this morning.

AA has a wonderful saying. It is, “Just for today.” The idea is this, “Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime.” al-anon.org

The Lord taught a similar principle in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In other words, “God give me today, what I need today, to get through today. Then I will come to you tomorrow and pray, “Give me today my daily bread.” I love how the NLT translates Matthew 6:34 where Jesus said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

With these thoughts in mind I began to encourage myself by praying something like this, “Father in Heaven, when you called the Apostle Peter out of the boat to join You as You walked on water, You were calling him to join Your holy presence for a miracle. Despite the circumstances of the wind and waves around him Peter stepped out in faith and did something no one on earth had ever done. May I have the same faith to step out today and join You for the miracle that You have planned for me today! Just for today I choose to put all of the negativity behind me and focus on the good that You desire for me. I pray you bless this day according to Your glorious riches in Christ Jesus. I pray in Jesus Name, Amen!”

I’m not going to say that my face shined with the glory of the Lord the way Moses face did when he came off the mountain having spent time in the presence of God. I will say that I faced the day with optimism and a renewed sense of the presence of God having acknowledged Him and prayed for His abundant blessings. May each of us continue to acknowledge the presence of God in the everyday situations in life and choose to live, Just for Today!

The Lies of Strife, Infidelity and Divorce in a Christian Marriage

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Originally Published by: THE CHRISTIAN POST

By Brian H. Fontaine | Sun 11 Mar 2018 10:03 EDT

Strife, infidelity, and divorce are not uncommon even among those who profess to be Christians. According to Professor Bradley Wright in his book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced. Although this is lower than the national average it points to the fact that Christians are not immune to marriage trouble.

 

To far too many the pain of a broken marriage, infidelity, or divorce is very real. Although Christ came to set us free from the power of sin we still live in a fallen world and are susceptible to the works of the flesh. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:19-21a, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these.” Many of our homes are not void of these poisons. How many marriages have been sacrificed on the altar of jealousy? How many families have been destroyed by uncontrolled anger? How many couples have been torn apart due to sexual immorality? How many homes were broken by drunkenness?

 

The good news for us today is there is hope, healing, and a future. Several years ago I officiated a wedding for a couple at our church. The husband had an interesting hobby. He flew remote control airplanes. He enjoyed going out to the RC airstrip to fly his plains and watch as other hobbyist flew theirs. He explained that it can be an expensive hobby and that a lot of people get discouraged because they can spend hundreds on an airplane only to crash it on its maiden voyage. He also told of the wise old men that would hang out at the airstrip. They would happily take home the broken pieces of crashed airplanes that had been discarded by newbie piolets. The old men knew how to make beautiful new aircraft out of all of the broken pieces. The Lord is a lot like those old men. He knows how to make beautiful things out of the broken pieces of our lives much like an artist takes broken and sometimes shattered glass and fashions together a stained-glass masterpiece.

 

Like those in broken marriages, Jesus was all too familiar with the pain of being misunderstood, abandoned and betrayed by those He loved. He suffered alone in the Garden of Gethsemane as His friends fell asleep, unaware of His pain. He suffered alone as He was tried and then beaten and whipped. Christ alone died on the cross for the whole of mankind and was placed in a tomb all by Himself. In the Bible Luke recorded, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus,” Luke 24:1-3 (ESV). Angles appeared to the woman saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

 

Jesus suffered greatly. There is no way we can minimize the pain he felt. Yet, by the resurrection power of God the Holy Spirit Christ rose again from the grave. He exchanged His death for life, His pain for promise, and His shame for glory! The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:4b, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” There is hope! Yes the enemy comes into our lives, our marriages, and our families only to steal, kill and destroy but Christ came that we might truly, literally have an abundant life. I believe God is more than able, and is in fact longing to pick up the pieces of your life right where you are and begin to make something new and wonderful.

 

Are you in the midst of a broken marriage? Are you the victim of infidelity or have you yourself been unfaithful in your marriage? For healing to begin we must combat these five lies.

 

#1 Lie: I can do this on my own.

 

The truth is that the enemy uses this lie to lead us to and keep us in our brokenness. We were never created to go through life alone. We were in fact created to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2 (ESV). Let others in. Seek help from your pastor or Christian counselor. Find a support group or Bible study where you can learn and grow together. Healing doesn’t happen in isolation. Humble yourself enough to allow others to walk this journey with you.

 

#2 Lie: My mess is beyond healing.

 

The truth is that strife and infidelity are not always a death sentence to a marriage and even divorce is not a death sentence to a believer. The Profit Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,” Isaiah 59:1 (ESV). You are never outside of the presence, potential or power of God. I know a couple who not only survived over a decade of infidelity they have grown to become one of the most rock solid examples of a Christian marriage I’ve seen. There are countless others who have gone through the agony of divorce whom God lovingly picked up and place back on their feet to find a renewal of the supernatural love, joy and peace of God by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

 

#3 Lie: God will never forgive me.

 

The truth is that God does not overlook, brush aside or otherwise wink at sin. God is perfect holiness. Timothy richly describes Him this way, “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see,” 1 Timothy 6:14-16 (ESV). This holy, sovereign, immortal King lives in unapproachable light! Sin has no place before Him. There is but one power in heaven strong enough to deliver us from the assured sentence of death that our sins require. There is but one power in heaven strong enough to wash us clean from the filth of our sin and present us holy, new and acceptable before the one true, great, and awesome King of kings, and Lord of lords, God Almighty. This one power is the shed blood of Jesus applied to our hearts by God the Holy Spirt! Make no mistake. We are all deserving of death, eternal separation from the living, and most holy God. Yet by the work of His matchless, amazing grace He forgives. By the work of His mercy He gives pardon. Sin is ugly and sometimes consequences of the choices we have made are saver and long lasting. Still as the modern song says of the love of God, “His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” 1 John 1:8-9 states, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We are not always faithful, but thanks be to God that He is faithful and just, and forgives us of our sins!

 

#4 Lie: I just have to wait for God to change my spouse.

 

The truth is that you must willingly participate with God to do your part to be the person God created you to be. Times of trials offer wonderful opportunity for self-reflection. The Bible tells us that, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him,” 2 Chronicles16:9 (ESV). I love the picture here of God searching diligently throughout the whole earth looking for those whose hearts are completely His, who are fully devoted to His purpose, and plans. When He finds them He becomes to them an anchor in the fiercest storm. We love the idea of God being our anchor in the storm, our strong tower in the face of our enemies, and our shelter in the storm. Yet God’s promise is for those whose heart is blameless toward Him. Too often we wait around for God to change others wholly unaware of the work God has yet to do in us before we can fully realize His amazing promises.

 

#5 Lie: There is no future for me.

 

The truth is that God knew the choices that you and your spouse would make before time began. As the Psalmist said, all the days ordained for you were written in His book before one of them came to be. God still has a plan for you as He did for Jeremiah, it is a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, it is a plan for a future and a hope!

 

Let me leave you with a final thought. Jesus taught a kind of, “Day by day,” principal by which to live. In the famous Sermon on the Mount He taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In other words we might pray, “God give me today what I need today to get through today.” Later on in the same sermon Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The NLT simply puts the verse this way, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” If you are a child of God struggling with strife, infidelity, or divorce I’d like to encourage you to live life a day at a time. Each day make it your aim to live not according to your flesh, which is your natural instincts, but by to the will of God, according to the Word of God, through the power and direction of God the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul encouraged us in Galatians 5:16-17, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

The Opioid Crisis Hitting America Today – Is There Hope?

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Originally posted on The Christian Post:

By Brian Fontaine |

The drug problem in America and around the world has truly grown to epidemic proportions. President Trump stated in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 30, 2018, “In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses: 174 deaths per day. Seven per hour.” It is rare to meet anyone who doesn’t know someone affected by substance abuse.

Many people point in all directions looking for solutions. President Trump stated, “We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge. My Administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

William J. Bennett and Robert L. DuPont suggested in their June 30, 2017 Newsweek article, “But the main unaddressed nature of the opioid crisis is focus and energy on prevention.” Robert Charles also suggested in the Washington Times, “The current opiate crisis is traceable, in large measure, to false messages. States are promoting drug abuse — especially of marijuana — with false narratives. They must stop. Narratives suggesting drug abuse is relatively harmless, non-addictive, generally reversible, medically sustainable, or socially acceptable must stop.”

Part of the solution no doubt is to get tougher on drug dealers and pushers as well as helping get treatment for those in need as Trump suggests. Prevention too has its place on the table of solutions as suggested. Education is also part of the overall solution to the drug crisis. Still, I believe there is major piece of the puzzle that is missing from the national dialogue on this subject.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless amidst the growing number of lives lost to drug overdose each year but there is hope. Countless people have begun to find freedom as they came to believe that a power greater than themselves could restore their sanity. In a culture with an adversity to the 10 Commandments and where the Name of Jesus is offensive the power of God has been reduced to meaningless, “Christian,” platitudes and lifeless cliché sayings fit for greeting cards.

As followers of Christ may we never lose our faith in the power of God to change lives. The same Jesus who made the lame to walk and the blind to see, who caused the deaf to hear and raised the dead to life can bring resurrection power to the lives of those in bondage to addictions and compulsive behaviors. The Apostle Paul offered this word of encouragement to those in the city of Corinth sometime around A.D. 55. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:8 (ESV). These words ring true in 2018. The message of the cross of Christ, His death and resurrection, the message of hope for a new life through the power of God is to our culture foolishness. Yet to those of us who have tasted His goodness, have experienced His grace and mercy, who have begun to live by His strength, this message has proven to be the very power of almighty God.

The late Charles Colson, former insider of the Nixon White House, turned Evangelical Christian leader and founder of Prison Fellowship International said, “I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things that we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.”

After all of these years our hope remains the same. The Apostle Paul told the Philippians, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” Philippians 2:13 (ESV). The hope that each of us has is in the power of God who works with in us to heal, restore, and to revitalize broken hearts.

Lewis Edgar Jones penned the words to this now famous song in the 1830’s, “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.” May we never lose our hope in the power of God who still heals the sick and raises the dead. Perhaps then the words of Trump will come to pass, “The struggle will be long and difficult — but, as Americans always do, we will prevail.”