COMMAnts from the Conference Minister – November 2016

Politics, Polarization, & Us

shari-favorite-head-shotIn less than one week it will all be – thankfully – over.  Voters will have had their say, and our nation’s next President will (presumably) have been elected.  But regardless of who wins, so much of what has been horribly revealed by this campaign season will remain painfully with us.

Through the primary season and then on past the party conventions, what we’ve seen over the last several months has been sobering, to say the least.  The rhetoric and behavior of candidates and citizens alike have often been shockingly divisive, violent, and hate-filled.  There’s been very little that has inspired, even less that has called upon our “better angels”.  This political season has exposed quite devastatingly the polarization that presently characterizes our nation and world.  And at the root of it all is an anger and fear that has us unraveling.

Our country has certainly known other moments in its history of such rancor and division.  Abraham Lincoln profoundly acknowledged one of those moments at the close of the Civil War in 1865, when he said in his second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Binding up the nation’s wounds is once more the profound task we all face. My question for us today is this: how shall the Church participate in that sacred work?

We have a moral and theological imperative to be fully engaged in the healing, restorative work our nation now so desperately needs.  As a prophetic church, we must be willing to name and confront the social sins — racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc.—that this campaign season has so harshly laid bare.  But at the same time we as Church have to find a way to make real our own theological language of grace, forgiveness, and redemption.  We need to call upon that extravagant love we proudly profess to begin stitching the gaping wounds of our nation back together.  And while doing it we need to be willing to see the sacred and inherently good image of God in every single person we encounter, even and especially when the person in front of us is the person with whom we have adamant disagreement.

In the United Church of Christ, we like to think of ourselves as a big enough ‘tent’ to welcome all voices,  theologies, and political persuasions.  This is one of those moments that tests this treasured image.  We are also a church that believes firmly in the intersection of faith and the public square.  Today that public square is riddled with disunity, distrust, and dangerous rhetoric. May we step into that square bearing the prophetic wisdom, unyielding love, and abiding hope that makes our unique voice an essential one for these days.

Ever grateful for your ministry and witness,

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Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister