Gia Coluccio and Kendra Johnson became friends their first week on the George Washington University (GWU) campus. They had a class together and were assigned to the same project group, and then they met again that evening at their first InterVarsity meeting. “It was a God thing,” Gia said. “We’ve been friends ever since.”
Since graduation they have remained close friends, even though Gia attended the Republican Party convention in Florida this summer as part of the Hawaii delegation, and Kendra is a field organizer in a Democratic Party congressional campaign in her home state of Arizona. “Gia and I, and all our friends in InterVarsity, had a lot of differences in our families, our cultures, and our backgrounds, but we are bonded together by our faith,” Kendra said.
Gia and Kendra were roommates their sophomore year and again during their senior year. Kendra was InterVarsity’s chapter president, and Gia also served on the leadership team. “I stayed in InterVarsity my entire college career, because I found genuine friends who taught me a lot about community, discipleship, and leading a life rooted in Christ,” Kendra said.
Identity in Christ
Located just three miles from the U.S. Capitol, GWU is one of the most politically-active campuses in the country. Many students are like Gia and Kendra, with jobs or internships on Capitol Hill or with political organizations. In the midst of this politicized environment, the InterVarsity chapter made a conscious effort to avoid political divisions. “We reminded each other that our membership in the body of Christ was where we should draw our identity from—not from our political leanings,” Gia said.
While political conversations were avoided in formal settings, political differences were not totally shunned. “We valued the fact that we accepted each other’s views,” Gia said. “We wanted to show this by making people comfortable expressing their views in informal settings.”
Kendra added, “Living in DC gave us a lot of opportunities to talk politics, careers, values, and beliefs. Never have I had such serious, insightful conversations with my peers. We didn’t have discussions for the sake of argument but to make each other stronger, better citizens, and better thinkers.”
Seeing Differences from God’s Point of View
It may seem strange that a chapter that contained individuals with stark political differences could remain unified, or that two friends could remain close despite their opposite political allegiances. Gia admitted that it seemed strange to her. “I often asked myself how God could be telling us two different things, or even if God is speaking to us on these issues. This is a personal struggle, and I’m still learning how to see political differences from God’s point of view.”
Gia said that she took heart from the story of Paul and Barnabas disagreeing and parting ways (Acts 15:39). Even though their dispute was over Mark’s departure from their mission, Paul later made positive comments about Mark (2 Timothy 4:11), indicating that he still cared deeply about his fellow disciple in Christ.
“Kendra and I disagree on some big political issues,” Gia said. “But we both really care for each other, and we both really respect each other’s faith and relationship with Christ. We encourage each other to listen to God before listening to other political influences.”
“Gia and I were never afraid to address politics,” Kendra added. “Our differences taught us so much, but our different understandings of the nature of politics and policy never got in the way of our larger mission – that we were supposed to share with the world the goodness of God and show the students on our campus the wonder and the power of a relationship with Christ.”
Disagreements Needn’t Divide
During this political season it’s easy to leave God out of the conversations. And it’s not always easy to understand how God is at work through the political process. We Christians sometimes find ourselves in political alignments against our fellow Christians. Just as Christians can disagree on theological points, we can also disagree on politics.
But that doesn’t mean we should avoid politics. Our political system is based on citizen participation. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to him, and give to God what belongs to God.”
Gia, and Kendra, and the other members of InterVarsity’s GWU chapter have discovered that we can still be politically active and honor our Savior if we follow Him first.