Our Common Bond: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Although the election is tomorrow, I fear that the wreckage from the election may well be with us for some time to come. I say this no matter who ultimately wins the contest.
We have allowed ourselves to become defined not by our faith, but by our politics, and politics have become a blood sport. As with any other blood sport, scars will be left even as wounds slowly heal. Speaking for myself, I have watched as relationships, some of long standing, have been strained almost to the breaking point. Together we have watched the erosion of respect for one another, for our civic and faith leaders, and for institutions once held in regard. I fear that this will not stop simply owing to the certification of the election. Those on the extremes of left and right will continue in their activities because we have normalized the fringe. In reducing complex issues to yard signs and bumper sticker slogans we have diminished ourselves and coarsened our discourse, both public and private.
Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We were married in Kramer Chapel (Eero Saarinen, architect) on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary. My old friend, John Michael Talbot, then a recent convert to the Roman Catholic Church, provided the special music in the service. In the congregation, numerous parishioners from my old Calvary Chapel were in evidence. An LCMS pastor celebrated a nuptial Eucharist using the rite found in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Anglican and Orthodox priests offered public prayers. All of them were close friends and colleagues… and I did not, and do not to this day, know the political leanings of any of those who participated. Moreover, my respect and regard for each and every one of them remains undiminished. Our common bond was our faith, not politics, and it has remained so thorough all these years.
As many have ardently embraced the politics of the moment in 2020, I have witnessed and felt the breaking of that common bond of faith, along with the abandonment of mutual respect that was once a part of normative Christian discourse. Worse, however, at least in my mind, is that I see little chance of bridging the gulf between many of us, much less a restoration of respect and/or regard that was once normative. The election, by its very nature, will likely be yet more divisive as our side either loses or wins, and as a subsequence, divides us into the binary categories of winners and losers. While I might wish and hope for graciousness on both sides, with a view to the common good, I doubt if this will be the case. Even in the church we have become addicted to our outrage. We have become expert in identifying enemies. Schoolyard taunts and making fun of names, appearances, illnesses or even disabilities – things which should have been left behind in middle school – have become the stuff of common conversation among believers whom, I have to believe, know better.
Tomorrow may provide a pause, but it will not provide a solution for the people we have become… Perhaps all we can do is pray.
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage:
We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.
Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen