Monday Memo: Hitting a Homerun

Terry Walton


I was thinking...

As a child I began my lackluster baseball career in the Forest Park recreation Pee Wee Baseball league. It pains me, as a University of Georgia fan, to tell you my first baseball team was the Yellow Jackets (Yikes!). I hit my one and only homerun on the Yellow Jackets. Please don’t be too impressed because there was no fence and the distance the baseball could roll far between the fielders outstretched the outfielder’s ability to collect the ball and throw me out before my fast little legs propelled me around the bases to home plate.

I played baseball most of my youth years. One thing I remember, and remember well, is that after each game, win or lose, players from both teams lined up and walked to the middle of the baseball diamond, shook hands with the opponent and said, “Good game!”  Player after player, shaking hands or high-fiving and saying over and over “Good game!” From Pee Wee to Babe Ruth League this was expected after each contest on the baseball diamond.

The French newspaper ‘Le Monde’ carried a front-page headline on November 4, 2020 (the day after our Election Day) which read, “Trump-Biden: The United States is tearing itself apart.” It saddened me to see in print what I already knew in my heart and that was how the rest of the world views us as a nation. The world sees us for what some would say is who we really are… a divided nation

What saddens me most about this perspective is that it does not have to be this way. Psalm 133 proclaims, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus warns, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Our Founding Fathers knew that social harmony would form the backbone of America. In Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, ‘Common Sense’, he wrote “it is not in numbers, but in unity that our great strength lies.” In his farewell address, George Washington famously warned against “the baneful effects of political enmity.” (David Brooks, Love Your Enemies, p. 36-37)

What is it about us that finds it difficult to ‘agree to disagree’?  I am quite certain that my next-door neighbor voted completely opposite of me. I am concerned if I open that discussion with him, he may regret being my next-door neighbor. That may or may not be fair or true…but why the fear? Insecurity? Inadequacy? I am certain there are many possible reasons. But I am also sure that I am not the only one who has such fears.

On the baseball field, I learned early that we had an opponent, but they were not our enemy. We were not the angel and they were not the devil. We had a common game, and, in the end, we hoped we would be the winner. But if not, well, that is a part of the game…you have a winner and one who is not the winner (notice I avoided the word ‘loser’).

We can choose whether to be living out of and into division. I choose to move away from ‘demonizing’ language and move toward ‘common ground’ language. I choose to move toward mature relationships and conversations. I admit I have some work to do. There are times when I can be very immature as I use blaming and victim language. I want to seek to understand more than to be understood…St. Francis of Assisi nailed it in his prayer. I want to grow toward unity and away from division postures.

Jesus knew us way before we were born. The Gospel writer Luke captured his words profoundly well, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expect nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32-36, NRSV)

Friends, we have an opportunity to show the world a powerful witness of God’s heart. We have an opportunity to line up and high five (or, in these COVID days, elbow bump) those whom we consider to be our opponents. We can lean away from division, in the church, in the community, in this nation and in the world. We can make headlines that read “We Know They Are Christians By Their Love.” We have an opportunity to hit a homerun for humanity’s sake. Sign me up…how about you?

Always thinking...

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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