By Scott Baker
After two weeks of political conventions I think it is safe to say that we have a pretty good concept of where each of the political parties stand. We understand a little better the aims and goals of each party and may even have a glimpse into the ways and means they hope to use to reach those goals.
However, it seems that the notion of cooperation across party lines is still a long way off. It seems that not only does disagreement prevail, but disagreement flavored with rancor and even spitefulness is the modus operandi for each side.
One of the lectionary readings we heard in church recently is a marvelous antidote to this spirit of vindictiveness and win-at-all-cost mentality that seems to have infected our society as surely as the pandemic.
Paul writes in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans, “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 … .’”
Regardless if you are a practicing Christian, a non-believer or ascribe to another faith entirely, these words can apply, and do apply to all human behavior. If we approached one another with this mentality in mind and with the words of Paul resounding in our ears our public discourse, not to mention our politics, would be a lot more focused on seeking common ground and common goals than our own agendas.
Considering that Paul is addressing these words to a fledgling church in the capital city, I think it is safe to say that those gathered to hear his words knew a thing or two about political life. It would be akin to writing a letter along these lines to the fledgling church in Washington D.C., in today’s political climate. These words not only apply to the political sphere but also to daily life and daily human relationships. The discord and unrest caused by political ideology could easily be smoothed over if we all did our best to live by Paul’s words.
As the election grows closer, and no doubt political tensions rise higher, perhaps now, unlike any time before we need to employ Paul’s advice to the church in the capital of the Roman empire and genuinely live by the mantra, “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Perhaps by doing so, it will not only help us forge closer relationships in finding common ground together, but will help us live more fully into what it means to be citizens in the United States of America.
THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.