How many controversial topics can one list regarding faith and values right now? It’s enough to make one want to crawl in a cave until the presidential election is over.
Is it freedom of religion or is it the right to comprehensive health care? Is reserved for one man and one woman? How do we know whether President Obama or any of his challengers are Christians? What should be the relationship between a Christian and the Earth, between Christians and people of other faith backgrounds?
Throw in the Susan G. Komen abortion/breast-screening outcry and the efforts of some states to outlaw Sharia law and it makes one wish for a simpler day when we argued about whether it was sinful to play cards, dance, drink alcohol or go shopping on Sundays.
We’ll find something in every age over which to fight furiously, but it seems that today’s issues are pricklier — and more combustible than ever before.
And so here’s a few words of praise for those gentle religious people who know how to pour oil on troubled waters; who while recognizing that there are enormously important issues to resolve, matters of deep faith with crucial implications, know how to be both gracious and yet firm; who try to find common ground rather than alienate their enemy; whose gut reaction isn’t to box their opponent in an inescapable corner; whose word is their bond; who realize that truth and wisdom are larger than any person, political party or religious tradition; who have a quick, sincere smile and demonstrate God’s slowness to anger and abounding steadfast love.
Here are a few words of praise for the peacemakers, who Jesus called children of God, those willing to suffer for the sake of what is right, but not to suffer as some martyr in the spotlight or to strut like a high-handed, dead-set, petty demagogue. Here’s a salute to those who strive and suffer patiently and softly and without playing to the crowd or inflaming the partisans.
Here are a few words of praise for those who eschew being firebrands or firecrackers or hotheads or moralistic hypocrites, who represent the very best of their faith tradition and operate out of the shalom and agape that is the property of every religion.
Here are a few words of praise for those who understand the position of his or her opponent and fairly portray it without making that person look like the wicked witch of the West, tarring and feathering that person as a violent and dangerous extremist or warping that person’s argument beyond recognition.
Here are a few words of praise and a great deal of yearning for persons of faith who hold their positions out of a deep ethical core, yet are willing to be engaged in the slow process of building bridges and building trust and creating beloved communities where each person values and respects the other.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.