A one-day, off-site retreat for the men of St. Patrick’s has been planned for Saturday, February 25, 2017 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Pickerington). In addition to planned, content-rich large group and small break-out sessions, there will be time for rest and reflection, fun and friendship, in a truly relaxing location. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from a little R&R, joined by our Christian Brothers. Please join us! Space is limited! Please remit payment of $45 directly to the St. Patrick’s office by February 19.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Smith, Rector
A portion of the sermon from November 6, 2016.
Never have I had so much pressure to endorse a candidate from the pulpit, or at least denounce one. People keep asking me, “Who are you going to vote for?” And, “What are you going to say about the candidates?”
I have always held to the Barmen Declaration. Written mostly by Karl Berth in 1934 it says that the Church should not be over identified with any one political party, or for that matter with the state itself. Otherwise, we simply become the tools of politics or the state. We comprise our integrity, and lose the ability to proclaim the word of God in the midst of politics or the state.
Because I believe so strongly in the Barmen Declaration I have never, and will not now, pick a candidate from the pulpit.
And let me say that if people are asking who I am going to endorse from the pulpit, then they are asking the wrong question. The real question is, what kind of people are we going to be in the midst of and after this election? I want to be a person who acknowledges that all of us are created in the image of God. And all of us deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
So last week I posted something on Facebook (that I originally saw on Cricket Park’s page) to support this view. It was a picture of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump together with the tag line: Both of these people are created in the image of God. Yes. Both. I got a lot of comments. And for the most part they were very respectful. Thank God that those who really wanted to challenge something about this post saved their comments for private messages. Most were fine, but there was obvious displeasure among others, on both sides of the political spectrum.
People asked, “Are you saying these are two equally good candidates? Because they are not!” I did not say that.
“Are you saying that his/her words/action are excusable?”
I did not say that.
“Are you saying their policies don’t matter?” or “There isn’t any difference?”
I did not say any of those things. I simply acknowledged what we Christians believe, that all people are created in the image of God, and therefor are worthy of dignity and respect, even if they do not demonstrate it to others.
As David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, lamented recently, “This election has been over politicized and under moralized.”
We have forgotten our morals and can only talk about the politics. But the first principal of religious ethics is that all people are created equal in the image of God, and so are worthy of respect and dignity. That is the first principal.
Jesus understood this when he told us to pray for our enemies, and bless those who persecute us. He did not say they would stop being our enemies or persecuting us, but they would still be our fellow human beings.
Even the rabbis who were contemporaries of Jesus came to understand this message and included it in the Mishna and Talmud. They added a commentary at the end of the story of the Exodus. That story ends with the people of God walking through the water on dry land, and then the water coming back over the Egyptians and their chariots once God’s people were safe. Then they saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore and Miriam sang a song of triumph! So these later rabbis added a commentary, “And God wept for the dead Egyptians and the widows and orphans they would leave behind in Egypt.” Even the Egyptians, the hated enemies were to be remembered as children of God.
We are in the midst of an incredible hate fest. Not only do the candidates abuse one another, so does the electorate. And in some ways we’ve gotten what we deserve. There is nothing the candidates say that I have not heard everyday people say for well over 10 or 15 years. The horrible rhetoric of the campaign is simply a reflection of what a lot of people have been saying for years. It simply has bubbled up to the top.
There is only one way forward through this kind of morass, and it is to remember this first principal: that we are all created equal in the image of God, and all deserve respect and dignity.
Does that mean we’re all going to get together, hold hands and sing Kum-by-Yah: not likely. This is hard work.
It would be so much easier for me to stand up front here and tell you how I voted and share all my righteous indignation at the candidate I didn’t vote for. That would be easy. Trying to seek peace and reconciliation among people who are tempted to despise one another is much harder.
But it is the only way. We will always have disagreements, and conflicts. There will be times when we stand against another and say we think the other side is wrong and we will do anything to stop them, but hopefully with respect. And there will be times, hopefully as rarely as possible, when we will have wars. It is human nature. But the only way to get beyond these horrible times is to see and recognize the humanity and worthiness in one another.
Abraham Lincoln understood this and made it clear in his second inaugural address. It was March 4, 1865. The outcome of the war was assured but it would not be over for almost another month. People were still shooting at each other. People were still killing each other. And Lincoln dared to say that we should look to the future, “With malice toward none, and charity to all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”
These are amazing words at the end of a horrendous civil war: malice toward none, charity to all, firmness in the right, but only as we are sure God helps us see the right. He was outlining a path forward to hope and healing.
We, as Christians can do the same. We can do this. It is who we are meant to be, people who know and see the image of God in every human being, who acknowledge that all of us are worthy of dignity and respect. No matter what happens Tuesday let us not forgot who we are, and dedicate ourselves to a mission of dignity and respect, peace and reconciliation among all people. It will not be easy, but it truly is the only way forward.