As I write this, our nation still awaits election results. One’s political views will determine how one feels once the outcome is known. Many people feel our society is more politically polarized than ever (probably an overstatement—remember the Civil War?) or at least as much as anyone can remember in their lifetime (still a possible overstatement—remember the 60’s?). It is probably safe to say that given the rise of social media and partisan cable news channels, people feel as polarized as ever. Throw on the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, continued unresolved conflicts over racism and potential economic woes and times seem difficult with no clear solutions in sight.
How can PHCC be church in the midst of this?
One way to be church is to stick our heads in the sand. We can just avoid talking about controversial subjects altogether among church folks. This avoids conflict but it is not very healthy. It also happens to be unbiblical. Jesus, the Hebrew prophets and other biblical writings have much to say about how communities and societies treat people, especially those with the least power and money. If we avoid all controversial topics, we risk avoiding our obligations as Christians.
A second way to be church is to pick a side. Many conservative Christian churches have equated being Christian with voting Republican. They are fewer in number, but there are progressive churches who equate being Christian with voting Democrat. Often this type of partisan Christianity centers on particular issues like abortion, homosexuality, etc. The problem with this view is saying being Christian is the same thing as voting for a certain party. Such a move is essentially making a false idol out of a party that competes with God for believers’ allegiance. Many of the most controversial issues of our day are more complex than can be addressed by a particular party’s platform. Furthermore, there are politicians in all parties that are unworthy of the support they expect from people of faith. Picking a political side and sticking with it under all circumstances is a guaranteed way to end up on the opposite side of what God expects sometime or the other.
A third way to be church is the one least tried—the way of common ground. Our culture is beset by powerful forces that have a financial interest in us staying as divided as possible. Everyone from the lobbyist to the politician to the media mogul knows the best way to make money and accumulate power is to create enemies that their supporters or audience can rally against. Nothing makes Americans more devoted to a cause than sharing the same enemy. It is much harder to find goals and interests we can agree upon. Can a church be a place where people who disagree with one another’s political parties can find things they do agree upon? There’s not a lot of evidence out there which says this is possible, but the alternative is we retreat further from one another while our churches become just an extension of the political parties.
Is it possible that people who vote Democrat and want to fight climate change and people who vote Republican and want free market economics could find common ground over finding ways to support renewable energy, control pollution and protect for wilderness lands?
Is it possible that people who vote Republican and want to support police officers and people who vote Democrat and want to overcome racism could find common ground on training of police officers, fairness in sentencing offenders regardless of their race and increased resources for people with mental health issues?
Is it possible that people who vote Republican and are against access to abortion services and people who vote Democrat and are for access to abortion services could find common ground working so all low-income women and children have access to quality healthcare, adoption services are made more affordable and our foster care system is better than its current deplorable state?
Is it possible that common ground exists in other areas too?
If common ground is to be found among church people, a few things are necessary:
This may be a tall order for ordinary human beings to accomplish, but we do not journey alone, God is with us. A church that wants to find common ground in order to work for the common good can do so if it walks humbly with God. The love, peace and grace promised by Jesus Christ is available to us, if we are willing to accept them and extend them to one another. A church doesn’t have to be just another partisan tool or a group that ignores the conflicts of our times. Instead it can be a place where we find love and community in spite of our differences while we serve others in Jesus’ name.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.