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About a year and half ago, I decided to do something that I never imagined I would -- I decided to run for Congress. I'm just a regular guy without political connections, but a providential series of events seemed to come together pointing me in the direction of getting involved in the political process. I ended up losing badly -- which wasn't unexpected -- but it was still an experience I wouldn't trade.

People often ask me what I learned while running for Congress. There are many answers to this question, but here's an important one: We would all be better off -- personally and as a society -- if we learned to practice suspended judgment.

To put it bluntly, people make a lot of really stupid and ignorant pronouncements. I was always amazed to read the comments of people who -- three minutes previously -- had never heard my name. They would make these dogmatic and confident pontifications about what I believe, what motivates me, my character. And most often, they were completely off the mark.

Some people would see I am a pastor and assume I align with the religious right and was attempting to take America back for Jesus. Some would see I was a part of an organization called Brand New Congress and assume I am a crazy leftist hellbent on destroying America. Neither of these things are true in the least, but that didn't stop people from assuming and asserting them.

However, throughout the campaign, the people who would take the time to get to know me, listen to what I have to say or read what I've written, would find something completely different than the person portrayed in the comments sections.

But before I point the finger too strongly at anonymous people online, I better do some self-evaluation. How often have I done the very same thing?

A friend of mine made a documentary about former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. When I watched it, I realized everything I thought I knew about her, I had learned from partisan radio shows. In the past, I had spoken assuredly about a woman whose real story I had not known. And I couldn't have been more wrong.

In the past month, I've watched this very thing play out with my friend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Before her surprise win in a congressional race in New York, few Americans knew her name. Suddenly, millions are experts about her. And some are spewing the most ridiculous things. I've seen the memes and read the articles. I know Alex personally and know that very few criticisms of her are accurate.

My point is this: We all need to slow down before we make judgments. We all need to practice suspended judgment. We all need to listen and learn before we pontificate. I know, it might mean you don't get to have a "hot take," but it also will keep us from looking like an idiots when the truth comes out -- which it always does.

Jesus told us to "judge with right judgment." Rarely does that happen when we make snap judgments.

NAN Religion on 08/11/2018

Print Headline: Lessons from campaign

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