February 23, 2017

Maybe Good Politics Start Around a Dinner Table

Of course, I was back in DC for only an hour before I found myself immersed in conversation about politics. This was a common feature of conversation when I lived in here. When I lived here it could get tedious at times, especially when you live in this city not due the fact that this place is the center of this nation's political life but for other reasons. It would be like having to talk about oil and gas in every conversation in Houston

I don't mean to say that it wasn't enjoyable last night. Not at all! On the contrary, it was food for my soul to be back with people that shaped me and challenged me for four years of my life. It was great fun closing out a restaurant, talking late into the evening with people that live and care deeply about how this nation is governed. Yet, something arose from that conversation that has kept me coming back to a portion of Jesus' sermon on the plain all morning:
"Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

"I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind."
We've become so comfortable with demonizing each other, creating a straw man of the "other." Christians have not, by and large, contrasted themselves from the broader culture when it comes to this behavior. Instead, we've reflected it. Whether this is conservative Christians calling their liberal brothers and sisters wimpy idealists and snobby intellectuals or liberal Christians calling their conservative brothers and sisters stupid and ignorant bumpkins. Those may not be the exact words we use of each other--it's often much worse, but you get the point.

I'm amazed at how so many of us have lost the ability to come together, break bread and discuss our differences; offering basic human respect to the other. I watched this happen last night, difference appeared, a guarded-ness began to arise and then common ground was found and it was lovely. And you know what, it happened while brothers and sisters broke bread.

If we cannot do that even within our own faith traditions how will we find ways to do this with others across any other variety of difference. Do we really think we will ever find common ground, find peace, by continually castigating each other? Do we really think that wholesale demonizing of whole groups of people, whether by ethnicity, nationality, orientation or religion, we will ever offer something productive at the end of the day? Do we have to be so easily offended by different opinion, lifestyle or worldview?

This does not mean that we cannot have strong disagreements, this does not mean we shouldn't hold each other accountable or critique each other's arguments. On the contrary, if we could actually dig into issues rather than berate each other we could have thoughtful, generative conversation.

I've been watching this video below repeatedly over the last few days. Doggone those Canadians for making me weepy! Go ahead and call me a sap but I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that good politics start around a dinner table.