“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” – Dorothy Day
As November rolls in and we watch the last few days of October dwindle down to another Halloween we are confronted with a tradition that seems purely American: voting.
Now I know the big federal elections of the President and Congress are still years off, but as a community we find ourselves embroiled in a local election over various different local issues. Should our city have a new city hall? Down we need to spend money on roads and utilities? Is it in the best interests of the citizens to run a new water line to the west of our city?
I’m not here to endorse a side or support one bond issue or another. I trust in the free will God has given humanity to make that choice, but I do want to call everyone’s attention to the fact that we’re still all neighbors before, during and following this election. There is nothing wrong in having passion for a political view, yet when that political view becomes more important than the humanity of the person standing across the aisle in opposition from you a line has been crossed in your heart.
Politics is an arena in which our souls can be so consumed by the sounds of the drums we march to that we fail to see who we’re marching over to our goal. We’re oblivious to the need to continue to love those we find ourselves in opposition to and fill to care for those who we feel are wrong. In being consumed by anger and hatred for the “other side” we became the very thing we sought to beat.
Friedrich Nietzsche remarked on such matter when he stated, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
In seeking to advance a political end, view or issue many times the most fervent supporter can easily be so overcome that they lose themselves to a heart of darkness that drowns out any and all empathy for the other side. Jesus Christ sought to fight this reality by telling a story of a Good Samaritan (Luke 10-25:37) that helped an injured stranger cast away in a ditch. If you think of your political opponents as the injured stranger dying in a ditch and you could not bring yourself to render the same aid that the Samaritan did you have become the “monsters” you fought so hard to defeat. You have fallen into sin.
The great news is that you don’t have to stay in pit of anger and hostility. You can stand and leave that prison and, through Christ, learn to love those who oppose you in this and all elections. No one is consumed by bitterness instantly, likewise no one is rescued by compassion instantly. The road back to a civil and grace-filled discourse is a similarly long road, but it is a road that we all can begin to travel. Step-by-step we will reach a point where we can disagree without the vitriol and hate we now experience.
It is my hope and prayer that ages from now our descendants will look back on our political discourse and debates of this age and see us more as the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable and not as the priests and pharisees that would pass by those we disagreed with as they lay dying on the side of the road. I invite you, as you head to the ballot box, to join me in making that view possible for those who will follow us in this life.