Sometimes these posts arrive as a bit of inspiration from a variety of conversations I have. One such conversation started last night when a coworker felt the need to announce (online) why she was voting for Donald Trump. She admitted that she didn’t like him and that she rarely ever likes any politician. However, life was far too important an issue to ignore. I couldn’t agree more.
This post is not necessarily a repudiation of her choice. In fact, it’s not really about choice at all. It’s about values and what we hold dear. Our vote encompasses so very little of who we really are. Who we really are is made up of small moments every day that add up to big moments. It isn’t really so much in what we say as in what we do.
The legendary Martin Luther broke from the church for a number of reasons. Most of them were so sound that the church itself reformed when it saw the error of its ways. However, at the core of his message was a phrase that came to be known as “justification by faith.” Essentially, it was the idea that one could profess belief in God and be saved.
This cut into the hierarchy of the church and the hoops they make us jump through. One does not need to confess his or her sins in order to be cleansed. They can simply profess their belief in God. Suddenly, the rest of the sacraments become optional as well. So, just those three words revolutionized the way that millions look at Christianity.
Naturally, I didn’t come here to start a theological discussion. My purpose is not to argue for confirmation, reconciliation, or baptism. It certainly isn’t to argue for penance or anything like that. It is simply to point out that God knows us better than we know ourselves. So, to say justification by faith as a means to salvation is fine and dandy. How do the lowly masses know where we stand?
I’d submit that we know based on what we see. I think all of us have heard more than enough from people that say they are believers. Like Jesus said, they pray out in the open and make sure we know they are fasting. It’s all for show. When the chips are down we know how important their faith is to them based on what they do on a daily basis.
Life isn’t just about a child being born. If that is the ultimate view of life then we are collectively missing the mark. Millions of decent people get it whether they can articulate it or not. All life has dignity. All life deserves dignity. Most of us naturally give it whether we know we are giving it or not. It is the compassion we give to someone suffering. It is the assistance we give to someone in need. It is our capacity for forgiveness when someone does us wrong.
When we understand that politics isn’t about whether we respect the dignity of life we are on the right track. Politics should be about how we respect that dignity. How can we best alleviate the plight of the poor? How can we best heal someone from the ravages of addiction? How do we balance the needs of everyone in a pluralistic society? These are all complex questions with complex answers.
Someone told me that we can’t judge other people. I get the point but that is literally impossible. I can’t and won’t judge someone the way that God judges. That’s impossible for me and not my place. However, all of us judge people every day. We choose our friends. We even have choices in how we treat our family. I’ve seen family disown family. I’ve seen family shun family and ignore family. The vast majority of the time it is tragic and depressing, but sometimes it is necessary.
We allow people in our lives that fulfill us and bring us joy. Certainly, when you go beyond family and work you are talking about people you have chosen to make a part of your life. That choice should be based on happiness. Increasingly it is made based on politics. Certainly, shared values is important in a friendship, but it can’t be more important than a shared belief in the dignity of life.
For me that belief is sacred, but not in a legalistic way. It isn’t about a stance on issues. It is about basic human compassion for other fellow humans. It is about how we treat people. It is about our capacity for love. It is about our capacity for mercy. It is about our capacity for respect. It is about our capacity to preserve everyone’s dignity. One’s vote does not define that. One’s vote does not cancel that. That can only come from within. There are those that will try to divide us based on red and blue. Red and blue isn’t the core issue dividing us. The core issue is whether we respect everyone’s basic human dignity or not. An increasing number of us don’t. Red and blue must unite against those dark forces before they consume us.