"This nomination struggle has inflamed a culture war..."

This week we're experimenting with a new format for our weekly update. This will include a new concept for what has been called a Deans' Note. We have been using this space to give an overview of what's happening at St. John's, but instead, we will spend a little time thinking about spirituality, theology, or social issues from a faith perspective.

So, this week we have been struck by the ongoing rift in our public discourse, especially seen in the controversy over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. We aren't arguing whether he should or should not be endorsed by the Senate. Clearly there are high stakes issues at play in this nomination, but the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle is not so much about investigation, temperament, suitability, or even legal philosophy. This nomination struggle has inflamed a culture war in which winning a battle against our enemies is the most important value. One side is defined as evil and the other as good. This is true on both the right and left. How can we as disciples of the way of Jesus respond in this time of high-octane rhetoric?

The first thing that comes to mind is Jesus' response to fearful followers during the storm on the sea -- "Peace be still," he told the chaotic waves and his disciples. Maybe we need to stop getting hooked on the discourse of fear and power. Let’s take a minute of stillness in the midst of anxiety and allow God's peace to influence our thoughts and feelings.

The second thought is the simple central tenant of Jesus' Kingdom: "You have heard people say, 'Love your neighbors and hate your enemies.' But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends.’ (Matthew 5:43-4)

We have legitimate and profound disagreements in our nation. We have very real questions of injustice. And yet, not having decisions go our way does not make us "losers." Demonizing our opponents will not change their hearts or ours. Rather, cast off that blindness. Jesus says to us. See those with whom we have the most profound disagreements as neighbors, beloved by the same God. Maybe that shift in vision would profoundly change our discourse. It might even calm the chaos of roiling seas.

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