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Building Walls
First Posted by on Monday Feb. 26, 2018

    Building Walls

    As we get deeper into the 21st century, I have a growing concern about the tendency in the Church to fall into the trap of substituting name-calling for discourse, separation for unity.

    When I was first ordained, we valued neighbors of different faiths, the presence of liberals and conservatives, activists and contemplatives. We saw our mix as our strength as a nation and a sign of the majesty and variety of God, not as a weakness to be overcome by ridding ourselves of those who disagreed with us or whose ancestors came from a different land. We strove to hold in creative tension all of these folks, recognizing their faithful citizenship whether others agreed with those responses or not. We acknowledged that no one comes to this nation by accident, that all have been brought into our presence by God’s promise of freedom and opportunity.

    The use of words as weapons has severely strained the bonds of mutual affection we once enjoyed. By using vaguely defined words and epithets, we have defined who is “in” and who is “out,” and have built a wall to divide rather than a door to unite. Jesus rarely drew attention to “outsiders” like Samaritans and Gentiles, except to draw them into his loving arms.

    As the USA prides itself on “e pluribus unum” so Our Lord calls his people of all faiths to unity—and he did it long before 1776. By inclusion without rancor, we can not only grow the nation, we can also expand the Kingdom of God as each of our people is enabled and empowered to exercise her/his reasone judgment and action in the world in which we all live. Wholeness is never found in sameness, it is a characteristic of diversity.

    We grow the Church and the nation by reminding ourselves of the Baptismal Covenant commitments of the Episcopal Church, especially “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons...?” We strive then to look through, rather than at, a person’s façade, to listen behind all-too-inadequate words to the inner core of his or her being, and then to see with gratitude the “externals” which God gave them and to ask how the Lord is trying to broaden our life and community in the interchange.

    Every once in a while, we screwed the whole thing up; but by and large the covenantal commitments kept us in line and kept the dividing walls out of our conversations. We are indeed all sinners, but we are called to change into the likeness and image of God, not to cast stones at other sinners. Right now, we seem to be screwing it up. We would do well to begin to listen to each other, to ponder what we hear, to engage in discourse rather than debate, and to hold each other close as sisters and brothers in the United States of America.

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