By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Our world seems filled with fear, hate and hostility. Politicians in democracies around the world know that and have capitalized on those negative emotions to mobilize voters. Our real enemies aren’t overseas. They’re right here in the U.S. They are the enemy within--our neighbors who aren’t like us. As Pogo once said, We have met the enemy, and it’s us.
We live in a globalized world of increasing racial and religious diversity, and that diversity threatens our comfort zones of familiarity. Rather than seeking to reconcile with our neighbors based on common values, too often it’s us versus them. We think of people of different races, religions and sexual preferences as threats to our social and political norms, if not our security.
Jesus taught, Love your enemies; and his teachings are summarized in the greatest commandment to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves. But identity politics have made some of our neighbors the enemy within. Race, religion and sexual preference define identity politics that have polarized our partisan politics.
We are a nation more divided than at any time since the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln cited a teaching of Jesus to illustrate the danger of a divided nation: If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25) And Lincoln went on to say, “If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Today the Christian religion is more a part of the problem than the solution. White Christians elected our divider-in-chief, and the opposition party has failed to provide any political reconciliation. In religion as in politics, it’s winner take all and losers be damned. Christianity is not alone. Islam also claims to be the one true faith and condemns all unbelievers to eternal damnation.
The greatest commandment is taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and has been recognized by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith. God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity through the transforming power of His love when we share it with others; but that’s opposed by Satan’s will to divide and conquer through fear and hate.
Our challenge is to defeat Satan’s divisive power with the reconciling power of God’s love. We must learn to love others as we love ourselves, and in politics that requires balancing our individual and group wants with providing for the common good. Reconciliation does not require resolving all our differences, only learning to live with our differences in peace.
To prevent the fabric of our democracy from unraveling we must find a way to reconcile the contentious identity politics that divide us. A moral reformation is needed for our faith and politics; and since a majority of Americans claim to be Christians, that reformation should begin in the church. But first, church doctrines must be conformed to the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus taught his disciples to follow him, not to worship him. Exclusivist church doctrines that emphasize worshiping him and ignore his universal moral teachings have made the church its own worst enemy in a world of increasing religious diversity. For the church to lead a moral reformation, it must reject its exclusivist doctrines and promote religious reconciliation based on following Jesus as the word of God rather than worshiping him as the alter ego of God.
For Christianity and democracy to be saved from their demise, they must counter their divisive enemies within with God’s reconciling love in order to foster the spiritual unity of Jews, Christians and Muslims in the universal family of God. Religious reconciliation is God’s will, and it was taught by Jesus as a common word of faith in the greatest commandment.
Kathleen Parker has described Donald Trump as the nadir of identity politics who has appealed to the demons of our basest instincts. She elaborated, “today, we have sunk to a level of tribalism that would seem to pre-date the modern era. Will we soon divide ourselves into fiefdoms led by warlords? Virtually speaking, we already have. By seeking like-ideological company around Internet news sites and political watering holes, we sate our need for identity affirmation, rarely questioning whether there might be another way. The next president of the United States will need to start a movement, not merely run a campaign. He or she will have to make a stand against our divisions and those who profit by them. And we citizens need to use our votes to conquer the dividers. It’s time to set aside our differences and reimagine our American identity — as one nation, indivisible.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-represents-...
Nancy Mace has chastised “liberal women” in Washington who overplay identity politics as a cause of social and political divisiveness that is harmful to the progress of women. In support of her assertions, Mace cited Abraham Lincoln’s observations on the enemy within. (The State, Feb. 17, 2019 at page 1C)
Robin R. Meyers has described how exclusivist church doctrines on worshiping Jesus as the alter ego of God conflict with following the teachings of Jesus as the word of God. See Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus, Harper Collins, 2009).
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(1/11/15): The Greatest Commandment: A Common Word of Faith
(1/18/15): Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy
(2/8/15): Promoting Religion Through Evangelism: Bringing Light or Darkness?
(3/8/15): Wealth, Politics, Religion and Economic Justice
(4/12/15): Faith as a Source of Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy
(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logos? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/jesus-prophet-god-only-son-or-logos.html
(5/24/15): De Oppresso Liber: Where Religion and Politics Intersect
(6/28/15): Confronting the Evil Among Us
(8/9/15): Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities
(8/30/15): What Is Truth?
(9/20/15): Politics and Religious Polarization
(11/22/15): Dualism: Satan’s Evil Versus God’s Goodness
(12/26/15): Resettling Refugees: Multiculturalism versus Assimilation
(1/23/16): Who Is My Neighbor?
(1/30/16): The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves
(2/7/16): Jesus Meets Muhammad on Issues of Religion and Politics
(2/27/16): Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy in Faith, Freedom and Politics
(3/12/16): Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America
(3/19/16): Religion, Democracy and Human Depravity
(3/26/16): Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery
(5/14/16): The Arrogance of Power, Humility and a Politics of Reconciliation
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(8/5/16): How Religion Can Bridge Our Political and Cultural Divide http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/08/how-religion-can-bridge-our-political.html
(9/17/16): A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics
(9/24/16): The Evolution of Religion and Politics from Oppression to Freedom
(10/22/16): The Need for a Politics of Reconciliation in a Polarized Democracy
(11/26/16): Irreconcilable Differences and the Demise of Democracy
(12/31/16): E Pluribus Unum, Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation
(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous
(3/4/17): Ignorance and Reason in Religion and Politics
(3/11/17): Accountability and the Stewardship of Democracy
(3/18/17): Moral Ambiguity in Religion and Politics
(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World
(6/17/17): Religious Exclusivity: Does It Matter?
(7/1/17): Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy
(8/5/17): Does Religion Seek to Reconcile and Redeem or to Divide and Conquer?
(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism
(8/19/17): Hate, History and the Need for a Politics of Reconciliation
(9/23/17): Tribalism and the American Civil Religion
(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/10/a-21st-century-reformation-to-restore.html.
(12/2/17): How Religious Standards of Legitimacy Shape Politics, for Good or Bad
(12/9/17): Religion, Race and Identity Politics
(12/16/17): Can Democracy Survive the Trump Era?
(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/12/if-democracy-survives-trump-era-can.html.
(1/6/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Diversity in Democracy
(1/13/18): Nationalist Politics and Exclusivist Religion: Obstacles to Reconciliation and Peace
(1/20/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Morality and Religion in Politics
(1/27/18): Musings on Conflicting Concepts of Christian Morality in Politics
(2/24/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion, Freedom and Legitimacy
(3/24/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christian Morality as a Standard of Legitimacy http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_24.html
(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy
(4/7/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Need for a Moral Reformation
(4/28/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Virtues and Vices of Christian Morality
(5/12/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christianity and Making America Great Again
(6/15/18): The Prosperity Gospel: Where Culture Trumps Religion in Legitimacy and Politics
(7/7/18): Whose America Is This? Musings on Conflicting Standards of Legitimacy in Religion and Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/07/whose-america-is-this-musings-on.html.
(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs
(7/21/18): Musings on America’s Moral and Political Mess and Who Should Clean It Up
(8/4/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Problems and Solutions in Politics
(8/11/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Changing Morality in Religion and Politics
(8/25/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Moral Priorities in Religion and Politics
(9/1/18): Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads
(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism
(10/13/18): Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics for Christians and Muslims
(11/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist: Has God Blessed Us or Damned Us?
(11/17/18): Christianity and Clashing Identities in Politics and Religion
(11/24/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christianity and the Legitimacy of Democracy http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/11/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.
(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos
(12/8/18): Trump and the Apostles’ Creed: Is It a Prayer or a Profession of Faith?
(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism
(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment
(12/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Justice in Religion and Politics
(1/5/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Building Political Walls or Bridges
(1/12/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Authenticity and Political Legitimacy
(1/19/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Discomfort of Discipleship
(1/26/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Evolution of the Gospel(s)
(2/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics
(2/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Hypocrisy of American Christianity
(2/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America the Blessed and Beautiful--or is it?