By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Religion, Legitimacy and Politics are in disarray this Thanksgiving. In spite of our dysfunctional religions and politics, I’m truly thankful for the 78 years of my life, my family, and for the opportunity to live in these crazy times. I’ve had many blessings in a fascinating life and cling to the hope that we will find solutions for our many problems in the future.
It brings to mind the South Carolina motto: Dum Spiro Spero: While I breathe, I hope. Hope can keep us going even when our expectations are low. I remain hopeful rather than optimistic that the church can be reborn to promote a politics of reconciliation based on the altruistic moral teachings of Jesus so that we can heal the deep divisions in our partisan politics.
I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m an independent centrist who believes that there is a spiritual power beyond all powers that can enable us to overcome our human depravity and sustain our failing democracy. How can we begin to turn our hope into expectations this Thanksgiving? We must find common political values with those whose values are diametrically opposed to ours.
Those common values should begin with the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves. It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus and has been affirmed by Islamic scholars as a common word of faith. In politics that translates into providing for the common good.
President-Elect Biden and I are the same age, and we’re both hopeful that Americans will support a politics of reconciliation. In a democracy we’re masters of our political destiny, and Trump’s attempts to reverse the election show him to be an enemy of democracy. To promote a politics of reconciliation, both parties need to support our constitutional democracy.
We have a long way to go. The elections of 2020 will evict Trump from the White House, but intractable divisions remain in our polarized partisan politics. Political reconciliation doesn’t require conformity in our politics, only on compatible political values. Disagreement is expected, but America needs consensus on the values of political legitimacy to sustain its democracy.
Most of us will spend Thanksgiving and Christmas self-quarantined from our loved ones, but we can give thanks for the blessings of our democracy by sharing a commitment to the altruistic values needed to preserve our democracy. The fabric of our democracy came apart in the political polarization that led to the Civil War, and we can’t allow that to happen again.
This holiday season, let’s give thanks for our freedom and democracy by seeking to restore political legitimacy in America with a politics of reconciliation. It must begin with seeking peace within ourselves, and then seeking reconciliation with our neighbors based on common altruistic values. American democracy cannot withstand our continuing partisan hostility.