This discussion is meant to be an open forum whereby all can share thoughts feelings and fears in order to grow and edify the Kingdom of God and Christ’s Church. Please feel free to speak openly and freely, with respect to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Christ the Center of a Divided Country Politically, it seems that we are more divided than at any time since the days of the Vietnam War. While I am not sure what stories to trust as I hear the news–stories about Muslim women threatened with burning, if they don’t take off headscarves and of conservatives dragged out of cars at intersections and beaten—I wouldn’t put any of it past us as humans and am clear that we are becoming more anxious and fearful as a nation.
It seems that we are in danger of falling apart at the seams. How can Christians help? Many Christians voted one way and many more another. Are we truly divided or is Christ strong enough to hold us together? Another way to ask this is to consider if Jesus really is a King and is his Kingdom accessible and present to us in the United States of America in the year 2016?
We might turn to The Lord of the Rings to help us think through the complexities of the current moment. After the hobbit Pippin asks Treebeard, the powerful shepherd of trees, what side he is on, Treebeard replies: “Side? I am not on anyone’s side because no one is on my side.” Christians should probably be saying this. “I’m not on any party’s side perfectly because no party is on my side.” And we might add, “and the side of Jesus.” (picture of treebeard?)
The binary nature of our recent election felt insufficient because it is insufficient: neither of the major parties adequately expresses a Christian platform. Many thoughtful people wrestled long and hard before casting a vote for the candidate. An unprecedented amount left the presidential portion of the ticket blank. Maybe our hesitancy to get behind a candidate without reservation represented the need we have for Jesus to be at the center of our political life.
- If Jesus were at the center, how would we do things differently?
- How does his willingness to tell the truth even when it angered others give us courage to stand up for righteousness?
- And how should his willingness to suffer and die for others inform the way we treat those who differ and even persecute us?
I’ve noticed something for a while now…it is easier for each of us to see someone else’s inconsistencies than our own. Jesus encourages us to take the log out of our own eye before attempting to help another with his vision.
This becoming clear-eyed enough to be helpful then is a process. And if we don’t go through the process of being healed ourselves, how then can we expect to help something so great as our nation?
Perhaps this is what God was getting at as he encouraged Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
First let’s work on ourselves. In what way is God asking you to humble yourself? How are you being called to repentance?
Fr Ken Tanner of Redeemer Anglican in Rochester offered a series of benedictions (in italics) that prompted my questions below:
May you recall that political movements and boundaries and personalities and programs are here one day and gone the next. All of these are passing away.
Am I tying myself to something temporal rather than to the King of Kings who transcends time?
May you resist the temptation to place ultimate trust in any person, policy, party, movement, or nation — even a beautiful idea that is embodied by a nation — because there is no nation with an eternal foundation.
How much weight do I put on the government or on a party or on the possibility of our parties working together? Am I looking to the three branches of US Government like I should be looking at the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Am I substituting America for the Kingdom?
May you have empathy for the political decisions of others that you find troubling — particularly those of family and close friends. May you have ears to hear what lies at the heart of their political concerns, and eyes to see the noble but imperfect search for goodness that is motivating their choice, especially if you strongly disagree with the candidate, party, or politics they support.
Am I looking for the worst in my fellow citizens, or am I open to what is good in them as well? If I sense good in them as well as bad, am I focusing solely on the bad and judging them for it? How does this go with (or contradict) Paul’s encouragement to us: “brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I will conclude with two prayers from the Book of Common Prayer
A Prayer in times of Conflict
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Prayer attributed to St. Francis
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Pastor Allen Kannapell