Questions: What can be done about all the division in our country today? How can I love a neighbor who is detestable?
These are difficult but crucially important questions. Shortly after receiving these questions, I came across a thoughtful and challenging article written by Adam Russell Taylor in the October 27 issue of the Sojourners newsletter, which seems to me to provide a way to think about how we may respond to the polarization and division in our nation.
Taylor suggests we begin with the church and affirms that “The church should be a place where people with divergent political views can coexist and be in fellowship because our unity in Christ supersedes our political and partisan loyalties. As the Apostle Paul reminded the Galatian church, in Christ ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’”
And yet, polls indicate that a majority of Christians prefer to attend churches where people already share their political views. And in many churches, the minister feels constrained to avoid raising issues over which the congregants may be divided.
Despite this, the church cannot simply disengage from politics. That would mean abdicating “the church’s critical role in serving as an instrument of justice, righteousness, and peace in the world.” Rather, the church should “serve as a balm, a bridge, and a beacon in an increasingly divided nation and world.”
To serve as a balm “requires a deep commitment to reconciliation, telling the truth, and repairing relationships broken by injustice.” This includes being honest about how our churches have often failed to display the inclusive love that was exemplified by Jesus.
Pastors and lay leaders need to remind their congregations of the biblical values of loving our neighbors, exhibiting kindness and faithfulness, and, at the same time, the courage to stand up for our beliefs.
Finally, Taylor points to the concept of the “Beloved Community,” which he suggests “is one in which every person is valued, is seen, and is enabled to thrive. It requires building a society in which neither punishment nor privilege is tied to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, ableness, or sexual orientation.”
Churches, their leaders, and their members could use this vision — which is rooted in Christian values — to draw people of differing political views into a commitment to a common goal: attempting to become the Beloved Community. Perhaps this commitment could help us overcome the divisiveness and polarization so prevalent in our country.
The whole article is worth reading and contemplating. It may be found at: Taylor, Sojourners