The presidential election of 2016 is over and our nation is at war with itself. Family members are not speaking to each other, long-time friends are at odds with one another, and cries of ‘unfriend me if you don’t like my political views’ reign on Facebook.
“And why?” I ask. “Why”?
I voted for Hillary Clinton. I have family and dear friends in the South who voted for Donald Trump – people I have known and loved for years and for whom I have the greatest respect. They are not racist, sexist, or homophobic as popular wisdom would have us believe. Neither are my Northeastern friends who voted for Trump.
I often wonder how many people who are so against those who voted for the opposing candidate, on both sides of the aisle, have been willing to sit down and spend thirty minutes or more listening to their perspective, really listening.
In the 6th century, St. Benedict of Nursia founded what later became the Benedictine Order which survives to this day. Known as the father of monasticism, he wrote the Rule of St. Benedict for all who would follow in his footsteps. One of his primary tenets was, “Listen with the ear of the heart.”
Regardless of which candidate we voted for, there is nothing more important right now than listening with the ear of the heart to those with whom we disagree. If the person we are in conversation with turns out to be an extremist, then we have an opportunity to ask them to listen to us so we can share our perspective. We owe it to ourselves and our country to do so. And if a person’s language subsequently turns abusive to a group of people or to us as individuals, we owe it to ourselves to end the conversation and if necessary, leave.
With the exception of such extreme circumstances, what hope is there for the world if we stop talking to those with whom we disagree? What hope is there if we label large groups of Americans based on the extreme actions of some? What hope is there if we surround ourselves with only like-minded people who think and act like we do? Not much.
It is that very self-imposed isolation that resulted in many people on both coasts living in a bubble, a safe world of like-minded cohorts divorced from the country we thought we knew. As painful as it is for many, God has given us a unique opportunity to live in the America that actually exists and to witness to our views in non-confrontational ways.
As a Christian woman who voted for Hillary Clinton, in this post-election season I am very much reminded of Christians in the early church. They had a message to share that those in power did not want to hear. So they developed ways of reaching out, tried and true methods that worked. And it’s very simple.
They learned to “meet people where they are.” Not where they wanted them to be. Not where they thought they should be, but where they actually are. To do so, requires that we must first and foremost “listen with the ear of the heart.” And that’s not easy! It’s a tall order! Being genuinely open to listening to another’s point of view that is directly at odds with our own takes patience, understanding and yes, faith.
I have the utmost faith in our country to follow the light, the way of justice for all people. But to move the needle forward from where we are, each one of us needs to do our part to listen, listen, listen with the ear of the heart …. then to share in a non-confrontational manner whenever and wherever we have the chance to do so.
In the Christian church, we call that evangelism. In America today, I call it critical to our survival as a nation.
In God we trust. God will see us through. But there is a role for me in this new order, and there is a role for you whomever you voted for. Let’s get to work, shall we?