407 church and state and unity

It’s a done deal, Kavanaugh has been confirmed, and as much as that bumms me out (for a whole host of reasons), the rancor and dischord that the confirmation process stirred up troubles me even more.

Photo by: Adam Polselli

E pluribus unum. It’s on all of our coinage and it’s commonly translated, “out of many, one.” It represents the American ideal that though we are an intentionally diverse nation, we are still a single, unified country. The idea is also there in our Pledge of Allegiance: “…one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Of the many things I love and appreciate about America, it’s this commitment to holding unity amidst diversity that I love the most.

But sadly, that theme is in short supply these days.

Photo by: Anant Nath Sharma

In the midst of all the conflicting Kavanaugh news and commentary, it’s like we’ve completely lost sight of the humanity of people, especially people we disagree with. On social media platforms, we make assumptions, we lob insults and accusations, sometimes at strangers, sometimes at people we love. And then they retaliate. Or they disappear or block or unfriend.

It’s shitty and ugly and I hate it. Especially when I participate and replay this dynamic myself.

But here’s a strange segue.

I’ve been tempted to leave Christianity many times before. And even now, I would describe myself as barely Christian.1 But one of the reasons I remain committed to the faith is because of Jesus’ commandment to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:39). It’s a core ethical principle and while I know I could live by that ideal without the associated religious accoutrements, the thing I can’t find apart from Christianity is a community centered around this principle. Of course I’m speaking here about the church.

And yes, there are many Christians who are driving precisely the sort of rhetoric that I abhor, but because of the authority that scripture holds in the church, there is a shared source to which I can appeal. This idea of a primary, shared, centering text is something I haven’t seen in any secular communities and is one of the big reasons I still claim Christianity as my faith.

I’ve written before about how I feel it’s part of God’s calling on my life to model the sort of unity amidst diversity that should be a key feture of the church, and circling back to where I started, I’m super bummed about Kavanaugh. I think his confirmation is going to have a devestating effect on many of the causes that I care about2 — it’s probably going to shift the political/ideological center of the court for decades — but there’s nothing I can do about that.

But what I can do is get back to God’s calling on my life, doing my best to dialogue with people I disagree with in a way where I try to love them as I try to love myself. Thing is, I don’t think I’m called to anything unique or special. I think this way of being in the world is supposed to be the hallmark of Christians — in John 13:35, Jesus says that people will know that we are Christians by how we love one another. I don’t know that engaging people with respect on Facebook threads is precisely what Jesus had in mind, but it’s one of the ways that I’ve chosen to live out that call.

  1. Specifically, I consider myself a very lefty/progressive Christian agnostic.  ↩
  2. Causes that I believe are in line with my theology and reading of scripture.  ↩