A couple seated at an angle from me grimaced and commented under their breath to each other. One woman shot up electrified. You could feel the spirit shift from openness to one of resistance and even contempt.
The response wasn’t completely pervasive. I heard a few voices whisper Amen. But it was clear that attitudes were divided, much like the nation.
That was the response in a prayer service for the nation that I attended post-election. The prayer in question was one blessing Congress, the President, and the Nation, invoking grace that we might come together.
Honestly, I felt the same unease. I knew it best to keep my prayers silent in my heart, lest a prayer of blessing for President Obama or Speaker Boehner be seen as intolerable by those around me.
How did we get to this point? How could our nation, our communities, and congregations end up in open hostility? How can Christians disparage our elected officials, whether Republican or Democrat, when the Scriptures admonish us to bless instead of curse and never repay an unkind word with a more unkind one?
One Christian woman I know posted on Facebook this week that
she wanted to sign the petition to secede from the Union. Really? You want to
disassociate from the USA? How disloyal is that! Instead of playing in the
sandbox and effecting change, you pout and take your toys home.
This last week I had to remove a Facebook post about a local, too-close-to-call election because a Christian began to lambaste the Republican candidate with derogatory epithets.
I don’t know all the answers but I do know that we must convene with our ideological enemies. We must seek to listen, rather than being heard.
That takes time and presupposes that we are willing to sit down in an atmosphere of tolerance, mutuality, and respect. It also requires that we stop the name-calling and blaming the other side for this or that, even if they are genuinely at fault. Blaming gets us nowhere.
Grace Nelson, the wife of U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, tells the story from the 1980’s how then President Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used to debate vociferously their views then leave as great friends heading for dinner.
I ask myself, when was the last time I had dinner with someone who believes differently than I? When was the last time I really sought to listen and understand rather than just be heard? When was the last time that I truly loved my neighbor instead of just tolerating her?
Bridging the divide starts at home, starts at church and temple, starts with me. We need to pray. We need to bless. We need to exercise our faith and believe for the best. We need to come together.
So when are we going to dinner?