For The Love Of Country, Love

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Social conservatives are especially dejected after the 2020 elections. Many are wondering where to go from here. Some doubt the future of the country. I know some who are openly questioning their beliefs and how a result they were entirely sure was not going to happen was allowed to become reality. 

I still vividly remember attending church with my family the first Sunday after 9/11.  Most of us went in that morning expecting to sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” but instead were served a message from the fifth chapter of Matthew.  The pastor suggested after admitting to struggling with his sermon all week that we turn the other cheek.

It wasn’t the direction we wanted.  I remember one of my family members being particularly upset with the message when a good Old Testament “eye for an eye” was justified, even demanded.

In that same chapter of Matthew, however, is an admonition for Christian Republicans that have for too long pretended God was their exclusive domain.  Jesus said “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

That’s not what we want to hear. Our natural instincts are to match every slight real and perceived over the past four years.  We want to repay them for their “resistance”.  We want to get even.

No one ever gets ahead by getting even.

In reality, we should start by understanding that political adversaries are the opposition, not our enemies.  Like it or not, they are our neighbors.

That doesn’t let us off the hook.  It instead elevates our charge and duty as Christians to the eleventh commandment:  Love your neighbor as yourself.

The key word here is “love” again, but “as yourself” is quite relevant in the political sense.  As we were told repeatedly for the past year, “we’re all in this together”.  What we sew for others we too will eventually reap. 

This brings us to the golden rule.  As Christians, we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  There is not an exception for politics to this rule in my Bible.

Too many have expected God to do the work for us.  We have grown both lazy and arrogant in our approach to both politics and religion.  The way we have comingled the two is something we’ll likely have to answer for on judgment day.

Not only did God not promise us a righteous kingdom in his image here on earth, but the Bible is filled with stories of mankind choosing poorly.  After God led Moses out of Egypt his people couldn’t wait for him to return with the tablets containing instructions before they had created an idol to worship.  The only time Jesus was on a ballot, Barabbas won the election.

We are, instead, told to expect to be oppressed by Government. We are to carry the pack not one mile but two, and to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  Turning the other cheek plants a seed that is a powerful symbol.  It is the path to begin cultivating hearts and minds.

To be loved, we must show love.  To win hearts and minds, we should start with open arms rather than closed minds.  We need to remember whose side we’re really on.

For that, we have words from the first Republican President. When one of his advisors questioned whether God was on the side of the Union, Abraham Lincoln replied “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

If social conservatives wish to return to political majorities then they need to reflect the teachings of the side they on which they profess to be.  They would find it much easier to win back voters and souls by demonstrating the love that is commanded by the one that is always right. 

If you love your country, you must love your neighbor.  Full stop.


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