"One nation, under God, indivisible"
Really? I don't know about you but I'm just not feeling the unity these days. In fact, I don't remember a time when the nation seemed more polarized (And then I remind myself that I was not alive during the Civil War. This, of course, is helpful perspective in the troubled times in which we find ourselves today.)
For those of us who serve in church leadership we are all the more challenged, not only because as a tax exempt religious institution we are discouraged from supporting political candidates but also because we recognize that in our pews are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, as is the case in many of our families. Our job is to proclaim the Gospel and to not let polarizing political views get in the way of making visible the unity we have in Christ. So the big question is: How do we position ourselves as people of faith in an increasingly divided nation? I would like to offer a few suggestions:
- Pray for our government leaders. Many of them are also frustrated with the posturing and polarization, the gridlock and the influence of big media and big business on how things do or don't get done in Washington.
- Stay involved in the political process. Express your concerns to your representatives, work for necessary change in policy, and exercise your right to vote.
- Continue to share and serve in our mission together. Remember that the Church was birthed in the midst of the Roman Empire. Regardless of what the Church thought of what was going on politically and militarily, they continued to respond to the call to worship, pray, and invite, as well as to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sick, and so many of the vulnerable of society.
- Do not be driven primarily by fear. Contrary to how the non-stop news cycle reports it, we actually live in one of the most peace filled times in the history of the world. (We just never had the capacity or the will to report such global violence and poverty before). In some ways, the world actually is improving. Do not let fear lead you. Get out of your comfort zone. If you have the opportunity, get to know individuals who seem very different from you and grow through those interactions.
- Really listen to the stories, passions, and concerns of those on the other side of the political isle from you. Listen without an immediate need to respond or debate. Don't assume the worst about them. Set some guidelines for conversation if it gets off on the wrong foot. What you are doing is sharing personal stories and concerns, ideas and views. Do not discuss political platforms and do not entertain negative comments. (While I am often disturbed by the negative tone and disrespectful comments of President Trump, comments by President Obama and Secretary Clinton regarding those who "cling to guns and religion " in PA. and Trump supporters as a "basket of deplorables" have not helped to advance civil discourse. ) Conversation needs to be about what we are for and why, not what or who we are against.
In the end, there are people you will not be able to engage or even be around. You've really tried and nothing positive or constructive ever seems to come out of the conversation. But we need to see each other as created in the image of God and understand that some of our fundamental concerns for our families, our communities, and our nation, are often not as at odds as social media and partisan politics would lead us to believe.
As we celebrate Independence Day next week, take time to pray for our nation, giving thanks for the incredible ways that we have been blessed and for all the opportunities that we have to share those blessings. Pray for our country that we will continue to develop and reform policies that provide opportunity and protections for our most vulnerable citizens: the poor, sick,elderly, children, injured veterans, and those with disabilities. And pray that we will continue to be a people who in our life together promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I hope that if you are not traveling, you will have the opportunity to join us this Sunday @ 9:30 AM as we sing favorite hymns (including a couple of patriotic ones), enjoy special music including some festive trumpet accompaniment, pray for our church, nation and world, and gather to celebrate the unity we share as the body of Christ at the table of the Lord.
A blessed Independence Day and may you know rest and renewal in the days ahead. See you in church!