The Enemy Within—Again (aka Part II)

I started this post the day after the first Presidential debate—and it took me this long to finish it. I hope that this post offers a bit more hope than the debate itself.

Did you watch the Presidential Debate last week? I did—for approximately 26 seconds.

Civic duty = check.

Why did I not watch more of it? How can I be that disinterested in the future of our nation? The answer is found in the Facebook posts of my friends on both sides of the political aisle.

“Well that was just about as ugly as it gets. No winners here tonight…”

“Do we really think more of these will help anyone?”

And my personal fave: “Can we send both of them back and start with two new candidates?”

Yes, plenty of friends and family confirmed that I made the right decision. Quite honestly, that decision had much more to do with concern for these friends and family, not to mention my sanity.

Short of a drastic bombshell that I can read/hear on the morning news feed, the debate was not going to change my vote. Watching the hot mess would alienate me further from my neighbor, and likely not change my mind regarding the election. Not one iota.

At the same time, watching and/or commenting on the debates is likely to infuriate and alienate people that I love on either side of the aisle. Therefore, I sat this one out.

Am I a wimp? Maybe. But instead of adding to the already volatile concoction of our current social/political/religious climate, I am spending some time considering what might bring us to a measure of peace. And I have come up with several additional solutions beyond the suggestions of my last post.

The first solution is a seemingly simple one that I chose to put into practice: Keep your mouth shut.

Okay. Yeah, I know. There has never been a LeGrand in history (that we know of anyway) that valued peace and unity enough to keep quiet. Least of all me.

But to use the most over-used term of 2020, in these “unprecedented” times, maybe the present calls on us to learn the value of silence.

I am not talking about complete silence in relation to the issues that you deem to be critical to your soul. Or to the future of the church. Or the future of the nation. I am talking about silence in regard to those in your circle of family and friends who will not agree with you, no matter what.

Let us face the reality of our societal polarization. If there is anything “unprecedented” about these times, it is the fact that we are polarized in a way unseen since perhaps the Civil War. In such a reality, we are not likely to sway our neighbor and our neighbor is not likely to sway us.

Therefore, it would better serve us to love one another and walk away from the bitterness of political debate.

Let us acknowledge the reality of our societal polarization. It is arguably elevated to a level unseen since the Civil War. In this present reality, we are unlikely to sway our neighbor, relative, or Facebook friend. And they are just as unlikely to sway us.

We cannot abandon our convictions just to appease others, particularly for . However, we can pursue wisdom to recognize how to fruitfully and productively express those convictions. It is highly unlikely that such wisdom will lead us to social media or lengthy arguments with our neighbor.

Choose instead to pour yourself into tangible, visible needs that are likely to make a difference beyond the bluster of bitterness. Voters need transportation in states where government has closed or severely limited access to polling places. Poll monitors are needed to ensure that all people are granted their constitutional right to vote. And poll workers are needed in numerous counties across the nation. Senior adults are often the anchors for such polling places, and many are unable to help out of concerns about COVID-19.

Yes, raise your voice when a spirit-filled conviction overwhelms your soul. But do so carefully, selectively, and in the most productive way. Action is always the most productive method for voicing those convictions.

Make sure you do this after testing those convictions with the wisdom of scripture, trusted confidants, and community. All of us need accountability, and these three things can guide us to greater productivity instead of pointless, self-righteous rage.

Speaking of self-righteous rage—an ailment to which I am extremely prone—we cannot forget the greatest commandment during this election season. No matter who wins, or how upset it makes us, or how enraged we get, we cannot abandon our true Christ-like calling:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

There are no qualifiers to this. Jesus did not say to love only your neighbors who vote Republican or Democrat. He did not say to love only your neighbors who agree with you on matters of policy and practice. He said to love ALL of your neighbors—even those who are lowly Samaritans (Luke 10:25-37).

We are in an era where anger can easily consume us and turn us towards pure hate. Hate of others. Hate of political ideology. Hate of failures in the system. This is never the answer. As Jesus (and Ghandi, and King, and many others) tell us, hate only breeds more hate.

One of our neighbors down the street displays a sign in their window that says, “Hate Has No Place Here” in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic. If that is true, then we have to leave room to love everyone, even those who disagree with our social, political, and religious convictions.

It’s really very simple. Jesus did it. Therefore, so must we strive to do the same—whether we like it or not.

Yes, I am angry at a myriad of things that I think are unjust, unconstitutional, unequal, un-American, and un-Christian in our society. I am frustrated by those who disagree with this perspective. Or support policies that I find morally and ethically offensive to my perspective on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yet, I am compelled by that same Christ to recognize that they have a different view of the Gospel. And that they are my neighbor, just as the immigrant, African-American, poor person, fellow church member, or political ally is my neighbor. I am therefore compelled to find a way to love them in spite of our differences.

I will continue to vote, advocate, and fight for policies that I believe are just in our society. As I do that, I also have to fight to love my neighbor, remembering that “neighbor” in the words of Jesus did not mean those with whom we agree. He meant it to include everyone. To those who recognized the one who was “justified” in the treatment of their neighbor, he gave the simplest (and hardest) of commands: “Go and do likewise.”

As I continue to fight for what I believe to be right, I will also fight to follow the greatest commandment.

Perhaps my greatest lesson in this comes from an interaction that I had with a long time valued and trusted friend on—wait for it—Facebook. I responded to an inquiry from him, and this is how I started my response:

“What I believe we can agree on is that we love and care about one another, about our respective families, and that we have been through too much for too long to let our disagreements divide…I will always look up to you for the incredible love and support you have given me over the years. This will never change no matter how you feel about my views or how I speak out. As always, you still hold me accountable for trying to express those views in a more positive and Christian way. Anytime you want to talk about life, faith, and family, I am here for that—all day, every day…if you ever need anything, I will do everything in my power to be there for you—all of you.”

His response?

“On this part…we can always agree.”

If we can agree on that, then we can always find a path to love our neighbor. Even when our convictions lead us in opposite directions at the ballot box.

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