Lesson 13: Resolving Differences

Resolving differencesThroughout the pandemic, I constantly have been asked two questions: “What can we learn to make things better when things get back to normal?” and “What can we do to facilitate a healing dialogue between the two warring political or religious groups?”

I have come to think these are not helpful, even though I presumed I was addressing them throughout this series. Now I believe there is no normal to which we ever return. The pandemic has just brought to the surface what was already going on in the depths. And one of those things now clearly visible is that the strategy practiced in much of the church and state is not to seek compromise for the common good but obstacles to prevent the opposition from achieving their program until you have the power to do everything you want. Continuing to ask the two questions at this time just hides what is really going on

Three recent incidents finally brought me to this position. The first was the response to a full-page ad in the local newspaper written by Lutheran clergy and theologians. It very carefully corrected a state senator’s daily very public misuse of the Bible and Martin Luther to promote his campaign. His platform centered on the need for real patriots to stand up for freedom by refusing to wear masks during the pandemic. However, it consistently illustrated this by labeling those not offering face to face worship as cowards and unchristian, always taking passages from the scriptures and the reformer out of context. The letter did not challenge his politics, only the way he was using religion.

His responses to the ad all began with a rebuke for not coming to him in private and ended with an invitation to friendly discussions. However, everything else raised questions about his real intention. He repeatedly called us ignorant left-wing radicals out to get him politically. He claimed his PhD. in history offered better credentials for reading the Bible and Luther. Over and over again, he engaged in name-calling and conspiracy theories, openly maintaining we were an evil movement hostile to the true Gospel. That included accusing our denomination of supporting the killing of babies and mixed-gender restrooms.

I came away feeling certain the senator was not interested in resolving our differences but rather wanted to draw us into further discussion, so he could use and then silence us in his bid for the governorship. That made me very uncomfortable as I truly believe conversation is the way to truth and that Christians are called to bring people together. However, in the present political climate dialogue has become a weapon to get what you want. That forces Christians to ponder how they should be acting.

John’s comment on our last lesson was the second incident. It reminded me many intelligent people believed the public conversation had already deteriorated to self-serving propaganda after the terrorism of 9-11-2001. They felt without the power to change this situation, Christians should be providing safe places where people could have honest conversations. At least in these the church could be faithful to her calling for being open to the truth and promoting repentance and creative change.

The third incidence occurred while spending vacation time with my grandchildren who convinced me that this conversation is also taking place on social media. That means Christians have to recognize the unique characteristics of electronic media if they are address Lupe’s question that got us started in the first place: “How can I be my sister’s keeper with the tools available in the present situation?” I want to speak to that next week, again beginning with John’s comment.

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