10 Nov Our Nation’s Unity Begins With Respect
Our nation’s unity begins with respect! In the final days of this year’s election, even before the voting booths opened, talk of unity and healing was already beginning. In what many pundits and pollsters have called the most divisive election in U.S. history, folks were starting to look ahead and wonder: no matter who wins, how do we move forward? How do we come together as one nation—or is that even possible?
It is now the day after. Some folks are jubilant and others are bereft. The election exposed, with mathematical certainty, what we already knew or at least suspected: we are a deeply divided country. But, what do we do with this newly reaffirmed information? How do we forge a path into the future?
It begins, I believe, with respect. We are, each of us, first and foremost human beings. We are created in the image of God. We are uniquely endowed with God’s divine breath and life. God designed us to live together in community which means we need each other. And here’s the thing: we don’t just need the people who think, look, and believe like we do. Our differences are part of the gift of community. The Bible says that “iron sharpens iron.” My mother puts it another way: “If two people agree on everything, one of you is not necessary.” (Good one, Mom!) Respecting each other in our differences is absolutely essential so that we can learn from one another and see the world and human experience from other perspectives, perspectives that are as real and valid as our own. We stunt our own growth and diminish our own expression of God’s image in us, if we cut ourselves off from seeking to understand and appreciate the “otherness” of our neighbor. We do not have to agree on everything to respect and affirm one another.
In addition to respect the second attribute that is critical to moving forward is gratitude. The truth is that this morning millions of children went to school and teachers showed up to educate them. Doctors and nurses are seeing patients and helping them to get well. Meals are being prepared and eaten, soccer practice is in full swing, and business meetings are taking place right on schedule. Despite Chicken Little’s dire warnings, the sky did not fall, nor was it ever going to, as a result of this election. As Ecclesiastes puts it, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
There is great comfort in the continuity of life, and for that, I am grateful. I am grateful for this morning’s rain, for the crisp autumn day, for the changing colors of the leaves. I am grateful for God’s presence, faithfulness and mercy. I am thankful that there are opportunities in the midst of this election result to learn and grow both individually and as a nation. I am grateful for my parishioner who said to me this morning, “I’m asking what God would have me learn from this.” That’s the right attitude, I think, and I appreciate his openness and reflective posture. I am especially grateful that our democratic process worked. It is a privilege to vote, and I’m grateful that my fellow citizens exercised that privilege. We must never take it for granted.
Finally, as people of faith, we are called to be people of hope. Nobody knows what the future holds, but we do believe we know who holds the future. I am strongly convicted that the church has a special invitation amidst our fractious national conversation to be a messenger of hope, of God’s hope. We don’t have to wait on the politicians to come together—we can take responsibility and lead by example, opening our doors, welcoming all, caring for all, respecting and affirming all, grateful for all. If we want a more civil national discourse, let it begin in the church. If we want a more just society, let it begin with the church. If we want more self-sacrifice, more emphasis on the common good, let the church lead the way. Some religious (and political) leaders bemoan what they perceive to be a less culturally-friendly environment for the church. I don’t see it that way. I see this as an opportunity for the church to shine—to shine the light of Christ as a beacon of hope to those who feel they are in the dark and have lost their way.
Yours for the Kingdom,