It should come as no surprise that many Americans are struggling with political, social and economic issues that are both domestic and international in scope.
These problems are complex. The resultant tensions have become increasingly incendiary. Dialogue has deteriorated into acrimonious dispute and polarized rhetoric.
Polarization has grown. Over a 20-year span, the Pew Research Center found that Americans became more divided along ideological lines – “partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades.”
That trend, they reported, manifested itself, “both in politics and in everyday life.” Two more recent Pew studies from November 2018 showed that the chasm is widening. One result was that respondents found it “more ‘stressful and frustrating’ to have political conversations with those they disagree with.”
These findings (which are mirrored in other research) are not encouraging. Developing, negotiating and implementing public policy in such an environment is not for the faint of heart.
Interestingly, many people of faith find themselves on opposite sides. What is of greater interest is the percentage of “people of faith” who form their views without any intentional reference to the teachings and texts of their faith. The sacred texts of many faiths offer similar moral guidance and yet, nonetheless, we are inclined to say that “religion and politics don’t mix.”
Those of us from shared faith traditions would do well to consider why we relegate our beliefs to the background. (In my classes, I am fond of saying that “your faith should form your politics and economics, and not the other way around.”)
So, what are we, in the Judeo-Christian world commanded to do? (Did you note that I said “commanded” as opposed to “encouraged?”)
We are told “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5: 25) and “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6: 8b).
Need more specific direction? We are instructed that, “When a stranger [alien] sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself” (Leviticus 19: 33-34a); and, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger [alien], and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me” (Matthew 25: 35-36).
I’m out of space, but not out of God’s words on these matters. Want to know more? Email me at email@example.com.
Here’s my parting thought: If you are a person of faith, how do these and other admonitions cause you to cast your lot? If you do not have a faith, how might these thoughts reshape the way in which you see the world? Think about it!
Joe Crowley is director of adult discipleship at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. firstname.lastname@example.org