Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Republican nor Democrat

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Gal. 3: 26-28

I've been thinking a lot about the above verse the last few days. It's an election year here in America and social issues are more prominent this election than in any other I can remember. Sure, we're worried about taxes and budgets but the hot button topics are gay marriage and now, the infamous birth control coverage. The lines are being drawn more and more fiercely between the conservatives and liberals and my fleeting hope that our two political parties could manage to learn compromise has diminished significantly. There's a lot of anger and fear that I've never personally felt before. Maybe because I wasn't so conscious of politics before?

Since the day I could vote and began carefully reading about candidates before making my choice (my government teacher, though a true Republican, impressed upon me the importance of being informed) I knew I could never go with one party or the other. My feelings on social issues were heavily divided so I always vote election by election and have never sided with one party over the other. My husband is the same way and my parents frequently voted for different candidates (especially presidential candidates) when I was growing up so I have never felt the need to take a side.  I'm glad I haven't because, yowsers, the division is something terrifying to behold. I've begun wondering if Paul was an American, writing that letter today he would say, "There is neither Democrat nor Republican, neither gay nor straight, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Why is it so hard to let our differences of opinion go and just respect and love each other? Because we all think we're right I suppose. Full disclosure, this really isn't something I'm that good at. Just last week one of my friends defended a politician I think is a nutter and my eyes bugged. I was completely baffled. Baffled! I thought to myself, "Seriously? No, really, seriously?!" And later that week I was perusing another friend's massively conservative, pot-stirring facebook statuses thinking, "BAH! How does his wife deal with him!?" Very loving and respectful thoughts, yes?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.- Col. 3:12-15

For those of us who call ourselves Christians (Christ followers, friends of Jesus, Jesus is my homeboy, whatever), it's especially important to try to learn to show restraint and respect to the opposing side of our viewpoints. And it ain't easy. Nosirree. Especially with social issues that tend to stir up emotions more so than taxes, medicare, what have you. When the argument is about whether or not you and your peer agree that your beloved friend or family member should have equal rights to contractually bind themselves in marriage to someone they love, things can get really hairy. I (and I'm guessing my co-author does too) struggle to see this from their point of view, even though it used to be my own. In the heat of the moment I just see the pain of my gay friends and I think to myself, "you cold-hearted, judgmental, rawr rawr rawr..."

Of course, these people aren't cold-hearted. At least, I hope not since I used to be one of them. They're merely restricted by their own experience and/or beliefs. They sincerely believe they are doing what God would want them to. I think they are wrong and that has ousted me from the club. So I joined another club, the anti-Republican, look-at-me-I'm-liberal-now club, and it felt really nice to be back in a club. I like the people in that club. They play good music there.

Then I started thinking about that first verse and some of the others in this post. As Rob Bell says, Christianity should not be a wall separating "us" from "them" and that's exactly what I was doing, just from the other side. Separating "us" forward thinking, clearly more compassionate, undoubtedly correct members of my club from "them": those silly, blinded, backwards members of the conservative club. (Aren't I an ass? Dear reader, I tried to warn you. I am, indeed, an ass.) No political ideal is perfect. No club is going to be perfect. Extremism is always dangerous and thinking I'm unquestionably right leads nowhere good. I have to keep my mind wide open, ready for anything, open to the option that I'm missing a piece of the puzzle. Because I have been certain of so many things only to later be certain I was wrong. I must err on the side of love and respect, for everyone, even the people who make my eyes bug and my head ache.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves... Live in harmony with one another....
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -bits from Romans 12

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