Applying Obama’s Wisdom to the Church
No matter our political persuasion, I trust we can all agree that President Barack Obama is a remarkable orator of a kind we have not seen in a long time. Why? I think it’s at least partially because he knows how to build unity and a sense of belonging among his vastly diverse listeners – even when addressing controversial issues, as he recently did in a speech at the University of Notre Dame. His wisdom rang like a bell for me as something I want to share with you. Obama’s insights can help nurture our dialogue on GLBT inclusion in the church.
What Obama says about our national disagreements is also true about our church disagreements: “The fact is that at some level the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction.” And he goes on, “But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.”
Surely we in the church can do the same. After all, we are called to love our neighbor, even she who disagrees with us.
Obama went on to commend finding common ground between those who disagree. Finding common ground, he says, is “recognizing that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a ‘single garment of destiny.’ ” We must, as Christians, agree. Even those Presbyterians who have left the PCUSA for other churches are still children of God, still members of the body of Christ, still, as Obama says, “those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.” How much more is this so, then, for all of us continuing in the PCUSA.
Finally, Obama reminds us that surely there is enough suffering near and far for those who disagree to find where we can work together because we know, “when they struggle together, and sacrifice together and learn from one another—then all things are possible.” We Presbyterians are already doing this by rebuilding houses in New Orleans each November side by side – regardless of our convictions about the place of GLBT people in the church. And I can tell you that sanding sheet rock all day gives ample time for good dialogue. But we can do more good together, as long as we talk while we are doing it!
I will take Obama’s advice and “extend the same presumption of good faith to others” that I desire from them. I will trust that common ground is holy ground and I will seek to find it with everyone I meet, but, especially, with those with whom I disagree. I hope you will join me.