A Line in the sand

On May 5 Mitch McConnell told reporters that he was, “One-hundred percent [focused] on stopping this new administration.”

It was an interesting line in the sand that he was drawing, not based on any principle or vision other than just putting his party back in power in Congress. It is a stunning assertion and effectively stops any possibility of inter-party dialogue or decision making for the good of the country.

It’s not stunning because I’ve never seen it before. I have. But rather because of its crassness. Utterly naked and defiant. But, again, not rare in human experience. Cain killed his brother in a show of power. David boldly raped Bathsheba by having one of his officials bring her to his palace. Jezebel seized poor Naboth’s vineyard and then had him killed in order to give the vineyard as a gift to her husband.

So I shouldn’t be shocked by McConnell.

All this has led me to think about what qualities are necessary in order for churches or governments or civic groups or neighborhoods or cultures to coexist in ways that are beneficial to the whole. In ways that don’t paralyze social benefit and positive motion.

A man named Paul had to address this in first-century churches that he wrote to. In Romans 14 the issue was eating cuts of meat that had a prior life as a sacrifice to a god. More conservative members of that church thought eating that meat was tantamount to worshiping the pagan god. More liberal members thought that conservative view was provincial and that it was just an inert cut of meat.

“Eat up.”

So how is a church or government or nonprofit or civic group to behave in a way that respects the bigger identity and goals of the respective community? Paul offers suggestions that are applicable to any group.

  • In any community there are varieties of opinion and knowledge. Recognize this and be patient with it.
  • Live in a sacrificial, deferential way. Don’t be haughty.
  • Don’t be self-absorbed. The object of social behaviors should be the well being of the Other.
  • Refuse to demonize the Other. Acknowledge the temptation to believe that your view is superior or more intelligent.
  • Make it your sincere desire to have a good relationship with the Other. If relationships are regarded as disposable, then the hard work needed will not be done.

Mitch said he was 100% committed to defeating the Democrats. Hardly a formula for commitment to the wellbeing of the nation.