The deep divide in our country’s politics is easy to see as fall 2020 arrives. You can probably spot a variety of yard signs in your own neighborhood, and nasty campaign ads already dominate the airwaves.
The polarization of our country is a legacy not just of the current administration but truly of the last half-century, dating back to when politicians built new alliances with evangelical leaders in an effort to retain power and privilege. The chasm continues to grow, not just in our politics but within the Christian world as well. That Chalice Press is known as a “progressive” or “liberal” publishing house affirms that there are conservative presses too. (A lot of them. Most Christian publishers would fall in that latter category.)
Politics has shattered far too many congregations. Mark Feldmeir addresses this reality every time he steps in to the pulpit at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, a church of 3,500 in the Denver suburbs. Like most pastors in politically diverse congregations, Rev. Dr. Feldmeir treads carefully every time he wants to address an issue that is even remotely political. And based on the positive feedback from his congregation, he’s succeeded in navigating those treacherous waters.
This experience led Feldmeir to write A House Divided: Engaging the Issues through the Politics of Compassion, available now from Chalice Press. Addressing just one of these issues is enough to give a pastor the willies:
Feldmeir defuses the animosity on all sides of the issue on page one, proclaiming “a politics of compassion that fosters a society grounded in universal concern, care, and commitment to the common good. A politics of compassion is rooted in Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, along with centuries of Christian tradition, our personal and collective faith experience, and an honest understanding of the societal sins of our past. Taken together, they can help us restore our commonality, reclaim our shared values, and resolve some of the most contentious issues of our day, regardless of our partisan loyalties.”
The veteran pastor takes us back to the roots of our faith – to scriptures that are so often reinterpreted and misinterpreted with the intent of manipulating our emotions to choose a side – and reminds us that Jesus calls us above all to show compassion, a deep concern for the suffering and well-being, for our neighbors. He then uses those scriptures to shine a hopeful light on those hot topics, showing us the common ground we often forget exists.
This “politics of love” has its roots in three core commitments:
In these times of communal diaspora, we recognize who our kinfolk area, and we recognize how much delight we take in being with them when that gift is taken away. That solidarity with those around who are suffering shows every time we put on a mask as we go out in public, share our gifts with those who lack the basic necessities, and work together to bring justice and equality to everybody in our society.
We find ourselves sharing a book that hits us where we’re living right now. We see the choices we’ve made over the years staring back at us. Some of those choices were the right ones, and others we second-guessed. Yes, A House Divided is a book about politics, but A House Divided is also a book about community and faith and the overlap with our civic responsibilities.
Odds are, you’ve already decided how you will vote between now and November 3. A House Divided is the blueprint for the conversations we’ll have beginning November 4. May it prove to be a blessing to you and your partners in conversation in ministry, no matter whose sign is in their yard.
Graphic: CNN.com Electoral College map on September 8, 2020