By Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle
Anyone who has been following the 2016 Presidential campaign, even on the most elementary level, has been exposed to what can be politely described as a high level of nastiness. For a variety of reasons, the animosity involved in our political discourse has intensified over these past few years and, in my view, has reached, if not an all-time low, definitely a modern one. Name calling, derisiveness toward opponents, supporters of one candidate screaming at and engaging in fisticuffs with supporters of another, have become part and parcel of our current political situation. I also have to say that if one need not be a liberal Democrat to express profound moral concern about the way the presumptive Republican nominee has treated his opponents in this campaign and has created a climate whereby divisive and racist language has become acceptable and even normative to many, including our young.
Even in writing this, my concern right now is that because I have pointed out my concerns about the way in which a particular candidate has campaigned, as a result, many people reading this will be immediately turned off and dismiss my comments because of what they may assume would be my political leanings, an assumption, I would suggest, that one could not necessarily glean from my comments above. After all, notable Republicans such as John Kasich and Jeb Bush as well as his brother, the former President, and the 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, (and many more) have expressed the same concerns.
Here is my issue: Those of us who profess that we are seeking to be followers of Jesus are disciples of the One who teaches us this about God: God is compassionate, loving, forgiving and engaged in drawing us human beings into a recognition of the inherent value of one another. Jesus was one who broke barriers, who really sought to tear down walls between people who had been divided from one another- Jew and Samaritan, man and woman, righteous from unrighteous. Jesus’ prayer as He approached imminent death was ‘ That they may all be one‘. It is this sense of oneness– the inherent unity of all that God has created, which is a fundamental tenet of Christian understanding.
Quite honestly, this approach toward life is antithetical to much of the tone of this campaign. Sadly, the tone of the campaign has made it easier for so many, including our young, to be nasty, prejudicial and downright mean, derisive toward others who are perceived as ‘ Other.’ One would like to think that with all of the horrific examples we know of in the history of the world, we as a society would be well beyond this. Yet, we are not, and instead are at a very perilous point.
Yet, as always, the message of Jesus presents us with a necessary corrective and with a vision of God that has significant practical implications in our daily lives.
In a world which needs the bold proclamation of an inclusive Gospel vision of justice, peace and hospitality, it is important that Catholics and Protestants work together both to understand the ‘ecumenical center’ they share and to live out its implications as Christian witness to the bigger and wider world. In doing so, those in this ecumenical center are poised to provide the kind of Christian witness which stands as a necessary corrective to those who have portrayed Christian faith as antithetical to science, reason, and to the bold proclamation that the grace of God is meant for ALL! (Crossing the Street, 193)
Divisiveness has been too dominant a force in the history of the world and, sadly, within the Christian church. It is the unnecessary tension caused by religious differences among people who love each other, spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and long-term friends that motivated me to try to help people find positive ways of communicating about their religious differences.
When I speak of a home united, yes, I am speaking as a Christian, but I am also speaking in a pluralistic world wherein organized religion has often contributed to the very opposite of unity and love. I am asking you, the reader, to live lives of love with those to whom you are committed. I am saying this with the conviction I find in my Scripture that, in the very act of real love, the love I profess was made incarnate in Jesus, in that very act of loving those whom we can see, we are loving the God we think we can’t! (A Home United, 65)
What is it going to take to move beyond this sad and absurd current climate? It seems to me that you will find people of faith who affiliate as Democrats, Republicans and Independents. It would be nice if those of us whose faith serves as the underpinning and foundation of our lives could allow it to motivate our political discourse. And, while I have pretty strong opinions about a lot of political issues, I will also affirm with that great bumper sticker distributed by Sojourners that “God is NOT a Republican…or a Democrat.” God is God … the source of unity, love and compassion. Created in God’s image, may we strive to be so as well!!!