We are one year off from what will most likely be one of the most contentious presidential elections in the history of most of our lives. I am worried about the divides, not only in our nation, but in our personal relationships. There are taboo conversations that some families won’t even begin to discuss when they are sitting around the living room together. If families are this fragile with politics, neighbors and strangers, they are probably not too far from completely distancing themselves from those with different opinions. It is concerning.
In seminary, one professor shared a favorite lesson from the great Reformed Theologian Karl Barth. “As a (pastor) theologian you should study with the Bible in one hand and the Newspaper in the other.” I spend time each week reading the Bible for sermon study and I also watch the news on various channels. At the top of the hour, I will watch the opening of Fox News. Then I will flip the channel to CNN to catch their take on the headlines. Then I go to MSNBC or OAN (One America News) and/or FSP (Free Speech News) to hear their commentary. I try to do this a couple times a week.
Every week I am reminded about what most of us already know. We are not getting the same spin on the political news from all of these different sources.
It is not just at the news stations. I have my own biases, too. Of course, right? We all do!
Then I read the scriptures. Specifically, I read the Gospel lessons from Jesus. Jesus lived in a politically charged time of Roman occupation in the land of Israel. Jews and Gentiles loathed each other. Rules, laws, and compassion clashed.
Often the Pharisees, teachers of the day, would try to trap Jesus in a corner with a question about a hot topic. Instead of lashing out and berating people, Jesus, our wise shepherd and teacher, would use stories. Jesus in his confidently humble way would say, “let me tell you a story.” These stories called parables would disarm loaded conversations. They were powerful little paradoxical lessons that presented the problem of the day in a new way. They could help people see things differently. They were humbling. Being humble is the art of learning to say, “I might be wrong.” Being confidently humble is being able to lovingly show another person how they may be wrong.
There are very few people who possess this skill. Rarely can we tell someone how, “they might be wrong.” We get angry. They get mad. We all shut down and call each other doofus.
So, I wonder, in this day of division, what would it look like if instead of telling people they are wrong, what if we told a story, a parable? Perhaps the story could start with, “Once there was this man named Jesus……he loved the Romans and the Jews, though they hated each other’s political views. He died so they would all live. He died so we would all live, too!” May the bad news not divide us as much as the good news of Christ can unite us. Amen.
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar