“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all.” The famous Christian proclamation in Luke’s Gospel doesn’t seem as realistic this Holiday season, but we need to make it so.
Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States. That’s not going to change for at least four years. It’s time for our country to put aside partisanship and work together as a nation. That’s doesn’t mean we must agree with everything President Trump’s administration will attempt, anymore than we have to agree with the Republican-led Congress or for that matter proposals from the Democrats in Congress. However, it’s time to find common ground where we can, disagree appropriately, and live in light of the vision of the prophet Micah: “And what does Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
There’s no doubt that America is more divided than at any time since the election of Abraham Lincoln. The rhetoric, vile comments and outright hate seem to spew continually from ideological bastions from both the right and the left, even in the Christian community. As an evangelical leader who has been “condemned to hell” (and received more than a few death threats) for understanding the scientific measurements and rapid rise in temperature as climate change from the right, and dismissed as an uneducated religious zealot for believing that life begins at conception by the left.
It is so easy to assign labels and disparage another human being by what you think they will say or believe in just because you aren’t willing even to listen or consider another point of view. We attempt to dehumanize each other in ways that are deeply troubling, and often are more reminiscent with the sort of cultural environment that enabled dark chapters in human history, like the Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust, or even American slavery.
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A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to welcome and offer a blessing at the start of an event to discuss bipartisan climate solutions in a progressive California community. I walked out on stage before approximately 1,000 people; introduced myself as representing more than 2.5 million pro-life Christians seeking climate solutions; welcomed all; read a quote on creation-care by Billy Graham; and invited people to pray. At that point several individuals made it known that they didn’t like the idea of prayer by shouting, “No!”
Many folks later apologized for the outbursts, but the shouting demonstrated the lack of civility abounding in our nation and the results expressed by our recent election. Millions of Americans felt their views not heard, not considered or even relevant. It’s time we stop shouting and listen in love.
Each of us has the right to express our views and be listened to. All of us has the right to be respected as individuals and more importantly as children of God. Peter in the Biblical Book of Acts puts it this way, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” Unfortunately, we made it common practice in profaning people different than us.
Over the past few years, I spoke to more than 1,000 evangelical gatherings on the need for climate solutions. Using my community’s values, listening to the questions of others, and sharing both the health and economic benefits in moving towards a clean energy future, the clear majority of people left empowered to act for building a new future where pure air, clean water and good jobs were real opportunities with tangible hope.
As Christians, our Christmas hope: “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” should be our example to emulate. If Christmas means anything to the faithful and even those not faithful, it’s that God came in the humblest form to demonstrate the value in each person. If we really want America to be great again. It’s time we begin with loving our neighbor as ourselves, and act accordingly.
The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, who lives in New Freedom, is president and CEO of The Evangelical Environmental Network & co-author of “Caring For Creating: The Evangelical’s Guide To Climate Change & A Healthy Future.”
Leonard Pitts is on vacation.