When I was younger, people got into arguments about politics left and right. But then you would move on to other things.
That’s the thing; there were other things in life to do. Our lives were not drenched in politics. But these days you can’t watch sports or watch late-night television without it referring to politics. In everything, we are asked to pick sides.
Facebook and other social media have placed us in self-selecting bubbles and our views become more intense. It’s been interesting to see fellow pastors say things about those with other opinions that at times makes me wonder if people of different political beliefs would ever be welcomed at their churches.
In the days following the passage of the American Health Care Act, I’ve seen a lot of anger coming from the Twitter and Facebook streams. I’ve had problems with this health care bill and I’m not afraid to share them, but some of the things I’ve seen are welcome beyond simple criticism. There is a fury directed at the other side that is venomous. Each side thinks the other is impure and they must be utterly defeated.
When I look at social media feeds in light of the healthcare vote, there wasn’t a sense of being able to argue an issue and still remain friends. There was a lot of anger and venom expressed towards anyone who might have a different opinion on the issue. One blogger even hoped for hell for those who voted in favor of the American Health Care act.
Like I said, there are legitimate reasons for not supporting the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But I choose to believe that people who think otherwise are not callous monsters. I can see them as mistaken in their beliefs, but they aren’t necessarily horrible people.
In the midst of all this, I came accross a Facebook post by Disciples Pastor Doug Skinner. In his post he brings up to important names: Hurbert Humphrey and Everett Dirksen. Humphrey was a Democratic Senator from Minnesota and later Vice President to President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Dirksen was the long time minority (Republican) leader in the senate. Skinner notes that the two were able to deal with difficult issues with different ways of looking at the issue at hand. But they never saw the other side as somehow evil.
What is the role of the church in this context? Too often, the church mirrors what is going on in politics; there are liberal churches and conservative churches. But Christians aren’t called to support ideologies or further political ends, it is to further the kingdom of God.
Disciples center their theology around the communion table. From its beginnings as a faith tradition, we have seen the table as a place where everyone is welcomed. Christ died to bring us together. In Christ we are unified, all of the old divisions don’t matter as much. As church, we try to keep people at the table, no one is sent away because they don’t agree.
The church needs to be a witness in our divisive culture. We have to model a way of living where politics is not our chief end, but it is to love and serve God and love our neighbors, even the ones we think vote for the “wrong” party.
My hope for First Christian-St. Paul is that we will be a witness of wholeness in our culture. I hope that we can be a place where people of different opinions can come and worship together and pray for each other.
We live in a time where the social bonds are fraying. The Humphreys and Dirksens are not working together. We live in bubbles where we don’t every encounter others. May we be an example of what it means to be a people united by the communion table. May we be a shining witness in this dark time.
-Dennis Sanders, Pastor