“You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, CEB)
John Wesley wrote: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”
I can’t help but think of these two quotes as I ponder the current political and social climate in our country. I remember a time when politics meant debate on differences of opinion and respect for the ideas of others. Politics is the basis for democracy; it is how we recognize that our country consists of different groups with differing interests and opinions. Through political discourse we find ways to balance or compromise within this diversity, at least the majority of the time. We agree that people will not always get everything they want and that negotiation can be messy. We recognize that some issues may never be “settled”, but we keep working at it. Politics is the alternative to “dictatorship” and think we agree it is the better of the two systems.
Politics deals with issues that affect the common good of the people. It involves conversation that forces us to learn about each other and think about how issues affect everyone. We often disagreed on the approach to a particular issue, but we could always agree on the truth of the issue. With a shared truth, we could work toward compromise to seek solutions. It seems, however, that we no longer have a shared truth in America.
In recent years we have seen the rise of groups of people who do not want to agree that other groups deserve to be heard. They suffer from a sort of “political narcissism” that will not accept the legitimacy of other opinions and seeks total victory for their side with the thought of compromise as far away as the moon. This has blocked the legislative process because neither side will listen to the other. It has caused distrust among the people and forced them to shout even louder against “the system”. It has given birth to demagogues and threatens to undermine the system it claims to be fighting for.
Sadly, this is not a political party problem; it’s not even an exclusively American problem; around the world we are watching as political systems do less and less out of fear they will lose elections and people who are more and more angry at their leaders for doing so little. All of this, I believe, is because we have stopped respecting one another as human beings, created and loved by the same God. Instead of listening and finding ways to work together, we shout insults and perpetuate lies in order to gain or retain power over others. The “common good” is no longer in our vocabulary and “me” is the most important word we know.
Like many of you, I am frustrated by the way our political process seems to have paralyzed our country on so many fronts. I also realize that there are many differences of opinion as to how we should move forward. The answer to our problem is politics. That is, it is in the respectful conversations we have seeking to identify problems and solutions that are best for the common good. It means not giving in to special interests or to the loudest voice. Politics is hard work that requires respect, humility, and compassion. It requires us to consider the needs and hopes and dreams of all people, not just what benefits “me”. It requires love. “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” Wesley makes a good point here that may save relationships and families that are being torn apart by political division. We need to supplant rancor with love and find ways to get along instead of tearing each other apart based on selfish principles. Life is too short and people are too important for us to be sucked into the vortex that we encounter in this election cycle.