A Collective Voice
Midterm elections came to completion on Wednesday as Virginia decided to elect a Democrat to the Senate. That race signaled the end of politics as usual over the last six years of full-throttle Republican rule of the Executive and Legislative branches of our United States government. The Democratic Party has to go back to 1994 to remember its majority voice in Congress. Twelve years may seem like a blip on the radar over the course of time, but living through those twelve years, witnessing the havoc wreaked first hand, elongates those years dramatically. Parents watching their teenagers walk out the door on first dates also recognize how time expands to accommodate fears and anxiety. How much deeper the feeling when we gather up what our country has lost and compare it to what might have been. But now we have hope, the hope of a dialogue with a President who now has no choice but to listen and work with a Congress that will not take no for an answer.
But this new leadership will be held accountable in a way that its predecessors have not been. Even as Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-California) began appearing on network news programs as the next Speaker of the House, we were reminded that this victory was as much a vote against President Bush as it was for Democratic values. Basically, it is great to win, and win very well, but it is now time to make good. Rep. Pelosi, as House Minority Leader, seems to have already started that ball rolling. In order to gather the resounding results she and her party achieved this week, she made it the Democratic Party's job to take on every criticism, every question raised by Republican opponents during the campaign. No assault would be left dangling or unanswered. People would know where Democratic candidates stood. Person by person, interchange by interchange, the Democratic Party would raise its voice as one. That the country responded back in kind, I'm sure, is no surprise to Rep. Pelosi. These election results are the efforts of many people charted together toward a common goal.
Would that we in the faith community could do so well getting our point across. I believe we can learn a lot from soon-to-be Speaker Pelosi, the Democratic Party and the American people in presenting our message, responding to voices that would seek to divide us and welcoming the country to give us honest feedback on how well we are doing. In short, we need a goal, we need a plan and we need a vote.
We don't have to go very far or look very hard to determine the goal before us as a people of the Christian faith community. The first commandment given to Moses is quite simple: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other Gods before me( Exodus 20:2-3)." This same sentiment is picked up a few books later: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord God is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5)." Years later, when pressed by the Pharisees to determine the greatest commandment, Jesus didn't miss a beat: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22: 37-40)." This is our goal, defined by our God through our community: love God, love ourselves and love our neighbors.
Inherent in our goal is a simple plan. In everything we do we must put our love for God into action. Into every thought, word and deed, we are to infuse God's love for us and for our neighbors. We must start our day with loving actions toward ourselves, continue through the day being loving toward other people and complete our day in gratitude, blessed by God's loving kindness. Every time we meet opposition to our goal of loving God, ourselves and each other, we must confront it with the blessing of God's love in our own actions. Every time we act as if we really believe God loves us, we become more authentically Christian, and it is easier for people to believe God is making a difference int he world. Every time we behave as loving, caring, accepting people, we share God's love and our collective voice grows stronger, more joyful, more loving.
Putting that action plan to the test of a vote among our United States constituency might be an eye-opener for us all. Would we be willing to hear what people have to say to us about what the Christian faith looks like in practical application in the real world? As much as we like to lean on the crutch of imperfection, I believe we are not so willing to parcel out that kind of mercy to our politicians. If you were running as a Christian and were called upon to define how you live your faith in realistic terms, could you?
There is no mystery about what our collective Christian voice can be. We can talk all we want about our perceptions about religious practices and systems, what is moral and how we think Jesus would handle any variety of obscure circumstances. But what we know now is most likely the first thing we learned about faith: God loves us. The second is that we are to love ourselves and each other in practical, concrete ways. Not just the people we like, but everybody. That is the collective voice by which we can be recognized and known.
This article was posted on November 20, 2006
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