Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One of Another

I don't remember how old I was, probably early adolescence, when I overheard a conversation between two adults, in which one stated they were a registered Democrat. I remember being utterly dumbstruck and completely horrified. I could not reconcile the good person I knew them to be with the evil that was the Democratic Party. It didn't even matter that they said they had registered that way years ago, mostly voted Republican now, and just hadn't gotten around to switching registration. I could not imagine why on God's earth this person would continue to be associated with such a depraved, godless group of people.

To be fair, I don't remember anyone specifically telling me "Democrats are evil and depraved," but that was what I had inferred from the conversations, messages, and media I was exposed to during my upbringing in a conservative, Evangelical, homeschooling environment. (Before anyone not raised in that environment gets too indignant, I encourage you to remember this demonization of those on "the other side" is certainly not exclusive to those groups.)

I like to think I've grown a lot since then. I've certainly explored a wider range of conversations, messages, and media. I do not think a person's voter registration is the determining factor in their morality or goodness or even their standing with God.

However. I'm increasingly aware of how often I still get that sinking feeling when I encounter views of family, friends, or acquaintances that are strikingly different from my own. Especially if those people profess to be Christians. Even though my beliefs are vastly different now than those I held as an adolescent, the sentiment behind my disappointment and dissent is the same: how can you call yourself a Christian when you believe that or support that candidate or hold that position?

I keep wondering how I can move past that. How can I think I've actually come very far if I'm presenting the exact same argument or having the same reaction, just from a different position.

I don't think I am alone here. From what I can tell, there is no shortage of people asking "how could you?" of those in their circles, be it only in their own thoughts or outright. If this is true, then I can hardly be alone in wondering about another way. I don't have any easy answers, but I can share what I'm learning from my wondering.

A few weeks ago, the book of Romans was the New Testament reading in the Daily Office. One passage in particular stood out to me and I keep coming back to it every time I wonder how to move past the 'how could you" to a different way:
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor...
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12)

Two things stand out to me: The first is that this passage contains so many things to do and not do that just focusing on those could prevent me from having time to even think about who you or anyone else may be supporting for president. But what I really want to focus on is the phrase "we are all members one of another." That phase comes back to me every time I catch myself baffled by a friend's statement or Facebook post. I don't fully understand it, but "we are all members one of another" seems to be doing a slow work in me.

I'm starting see that in the mystical Body of Christ, there is something I'm not supposed to so readily dismiss in anything that brings out my 'how-could-yous.' And, more importantly, I'm coming to understand that the person holding those views is somehow part of me, as we are each part of Christ.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting we stay idle or silent in the face of actual wrong or evil. What I'm wrestling with and trying to express is a dissatisfaction with the way most of us have learned to engage with people on the other side. What I'm looking for is a different way.

I'm seeing that when we disagree, if I begin from "how could you?" then the last thing I'm going to remember is that we are "one of another." I will forget that we belong to each other (to summarize Mother Teresa). I will recoil or become defensive and cut myself off from you, which means I'm also cutting myself off from who I'm called to be.

It can be baffling how two people who profess a belief in the same God and read the same Holy Words can have such vastly different views. It is so easy to use these differences to harm to each other and our relationships by approaching those opposing views with accusations and incredulity. But what if we could transform these interactions? What if we could learn from and love each other, even if we never agree?

If we want to, we could start by remembering that we are members one of another, and go from there.