Faithful citizenship: it’s all about love


Excerpted from Greg Garrett’s article in Huffington Post on citizenship lessons from the election:

In the course of the last two years, I read current events, theology and the Bible voraciously, trying to come to some conclusions about how faith might be a positive force in our national discourse, not another divisive partisan marker. Far too many of us who call ourselves people of faith, I found, make decisions that stand in some ways opposed to our faith, and that included me. It’s still readily apparent in the aftermath of the election: look at those who call themselves Christian who are nonetheless still attacking the opposition or gloating about the downfall of the candidates they grew to loathe.

In the course of writing my column and, finally, the book “Faithful Citizenship,” I came to agree with former Republican senator John Danforth that Christians should come to the political process not with “Christian issues” but with the spirit of reconciliation.

I came to agree with Augustine that love and friendship were the transcendent values that should permeate all our social interaction.

I came to the conclusion — painful for this lifelong partisan Democrat — that being right (or perceiving myself as right) was less important than reaching out in love to those with whom I disagreed.

Greg then expands why love is important:

Love for others, even when it’s difficult, nonetheless is what we’re called to do by Jesus, by Paul, by the writer of the Johannine epistles, by Augustine, by Aquinas, by Martin Luther, By John Calvin, by Stanley Hauerwas and by Anne Lamott (who like all of us sometimes finds it hard to forgive).

Love for God and for our neighbor is at the heart of Christian belief and practice, and our friendship is to extend to every member of the human family, even to our enemies, as Augustine wrote in his Letter 130.

That love could transform our political lives — and the way we see others. It could help to heal our divisions, because as Christians we believe that love has the power to transform not only us but those we love. The message and life of Jesus are proof that God chooses to move in the world not through coercion, but through a call to transformation.

At the same time, I’ve been writing and teaching that this love should cause us to approach our political life — in fact, all aspects of our life — with some humility. We hold our beliefs for reasons that seem right and appropriate to us, but have to realize that those who differ from us hold their beliefs for those same reasons, not to belittle us, not because they are bad or stupid or less human than we are.

Those who differ from us are making decisions based on the best information they have available, and they too are trying to come to some solutions to the big problems they see facing their families, their country and the world.

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Tom Sramek Jr

In a riff off the popular book, the theme for our Election Day Communion service this year was: "Vote. Pray. Love." Perhaps a bit prophetic...

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