Over the past few months and weeks I have been alternately thankful and dismayed to read, on the one hand, articles and letters calling for unity of spirit, even when we cannot agree on specific issues, and, on the other hand, writing which underscores, and at times even seems to increase, the deep divisions in our society and in the Church.
Now that the rhetoric is at an ebb with the end of a presidential campaign, I’d like to propose that we all take some time to examine ourselves and consider some new ways, or old ones, of relating to each other. The shouting match methods we have learned so well from secular politics are not serving us very well; we’re spending too much time, money, breath and ink on “dialog” that fails and frustrates us again and again.
What if we all agree that, no matter what the issue, we are not ultimately responsible for outcomes? That God is not a spectator or non-participant in our lives but sovereign? What if we tried to release our obsessions with politics enough to apply the power of Christ’s resurrection to the issues that confront us? We receive and celebrate that power together in the Eucharist. Can we not put it to work in our personal and common lives? What if we all agreed to expect less of our government, both elected and appointed, and more of ourselves as the Body of Christ? The burdens of presidents, and other officials are heavy enough without expecting them to be messiahs too. I believe, even now, that we can surely agree that the Messiah we have is more than equal to any quandary or crisis which might threaten or concern us. What if we began really trusting him with our quandaries and crises?
Please don’t mishear, I am not advocating that we retreat into our diverse corners to simply pray quietly, though that will certainly continue to be a prime element in our struggles to be faithful Christians. But, I am advocating and praying for a widespread re-acknowledgment that “we struggle not against flesh and blood,” that we cease making each other the enemy, and that we rediscover and reclaim all that makes us one spiritually. Then perhaps we can more fruitfully continue to work at sorting out all that might divide us politically. I would make bold to suggest that if we as Christ’s Church, abandon our partisan and sectarian disagreements, however fond or closely held, we might lead the way to a new catholicity, preferring our love for each other to our issues and causes. Might we then discover a renewed perspective on the world for which Jesus died?
Can we set a new tone for international and inter-religious relations simply by displaying love for each other as Christians? Is unilateral forgiveness a realistic option, even among Christians? Are bridges ever more useful than walls in human relationships? The questions are worth asking. The Good News of Jesus might just work more practically than the political rhetoric that divides us from each other and isolates us from the world. Let’s give it a try.