There I sat in our family room glued to the television watching another Presidential Debate. All of a sudden I felt my body language begin to twist and turn. I noticed that I could hardly make eye contact with the TV screen. I was so disappointed in what I was seeing and hearing. I was experiencing embarrassment and shame at what was occurring in homes all across this nation. The vitriol and blaming and accusations and, well, it was disturbing to me. What has happened to us as an American people where this has become the process by which we decide on our next Presidential leader?
Call me naïve (and you could very well be calling me exactly what I am) but what would happen if candidates for public office were not allowed to talk negatively about their opponents? What would happen if there was a rule that stated “all you can speak about are the issues and how you and your team would address those issues”? What would happen if before all campaign speeches and debates there was a moment of silence so that each could address their God in their own way asking for divine guidance in the process? What would happen? What would this say to our children and grandchildren? What might this do for our nation and world?
I was in an election campaign once upon a time. It was for Student Body President at Griffin High School in Griffin, Georgia. Clifford Harps and I were hoping to become President and Vice-President of a 1600 member Student Body. We ran against Randy Lasiter and Mike Alexander. We were not allowed to speak in any negative fashion about our opponents. We were to learn how to run for office with integrity of promises as to what our leadership might mean to Griffin High if we were elected. Now I ask why teachers and school administrators would want us to approach our campaigns with such high standards. I think they would’ve said, “Because we want our youth to learn how to be kind and gracious with others even those with whom we disagree”.
This leads me to a greater concern…The Church is the Body of Christ and is called to influence the world in Christ-like ways. But yet what I see in our beloved United Methodist Church all too often are people who are full of anger and hatred toward those for whom they disagree. The vitriol, blaming and accusations are disturbing; to say the least…sinful might be a better description. Conservatives speak unkindly towards the progressives. Progressives speak unkindly toward the conservatives. And what makes this of greater concern to me is that we do this quoting scripture all along the path of our arrogant proclamations. (Proof texting is a dangerous weapon). We choose sides and we cheer for those who think like us. We glance shamefully at those who have not seen the holy light we have seen. The result? The world begins to behave just like the church.
What would happen if we simply loved and accepted the fact that we are all different yet equally loved by God? What would happen if we learned to embrace rather than raise our fist or point our finger? What would happen if we lived our faith before the world in a Christ-like fashion? What would this say to our children and grandchildren? What might this do for our nation and our world?
Walton and Harps won that Student Body election by a mere 300 votes. Two of my friends throughout life have been Randy Lasiter and Mike Alexander. I think the lessons of old Griffin High might be lessons we need to re-visit as a church and as a nation. Naïve? Maybe, but what might happen?
Have you read “Under the Unpredictable Plant” by Eugene Peterson? Great Book for Clergy…