Dear Grace Church Family,
When I was in elementary school I was given a brown, plastic bank shaped like a peanut with President Jimmy Carter’s wide, toothy smile. I knew President Carter had been a peanut farmer and got that the bank was a joke. Was it funny because he was a farmer? Was his smile malevolent instead of gracious? The bank unnerved me as a kid because it made him inhuman.
Late in the summer naked statues of Donald Trump appeared in several major cities, including one in Jersey City at the approach to the Holland Tunnel. Online I’ve seen comics of Hillary Clinton as a pig and a python. There are also blood chilling pictures of her face with a gun target imposed over it. The Halloween decorations and cartoons invite ridicule, the picture with the gun target: assassination.
I don’t remember an election when the stakes have been higher. I can’t think of a time during my life when objective facts have had less relevance in public debate or when there has been more blatant demonization of the stranger. I also can’t think of a time when there has been more encouragement to look at political opponents through fun house mirrors and hold them up for public ridicule.
As our country polarizes, you may find that you’re tempted to ridicule people whose opinions range from misguided to unconscionable. After all, slander and name calling is floating around everywhere: in the air we breathe, in casual conversations, on line at the grocery store, displayed on front lawns and roof tops, no farther than the knob of your car radio.
People of God: don’t fall for it. It’s a trap.
When you dehumanize a person, no matter who that person is, you deny the presence and power of the One who made all people in His own image. Can you imagine? Even Hillary Clinton. Even Donald Trump. Even David Duke. Even Saddam Hussein. Christ came to find sinners, not to consolidate and spiritually promote the righteous. If we join the jeering crowds and deny the humanity of even the most heinous human being, we take a step back from Jesus and deny his power to save anyone.
This is sometimes, like now, very hard to hear. If you’re a Christian you can’t ultimately be a Republican, a member of the Green Party, the Tea Party or a Democrat. Christians belong to Christ- the lover of sinners. Insert whoever the “sinner” is you’re thinking about now. That’s the one Jesus meant- that’s his beloved.
The Nicene Creed is one of the more cryptic documents in Christendom. One of the weirder things we affirm as part of it every Sunday morning is when we say;
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
What does it mean to say we believe in all that we see and also all we don’t see?
I confess: I don’t see God in some people. That’s why this weekly statement we stand and make together is important. In it we profess, though at times unseen, that God is here; present in everyone.
The only cause for pure despair on November 9th would be to forget that.
Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm