Question: Do you want to see an increasingly divided America, where people either “get on board” or they are wrong? Or do you want to see One America, a nation with many opinions but one heart?
This story may help
In 1952 my parents married and moved to Folkestone, on the south coast of England. They were soon followed by my grandparents, Arthur and Lily Kemp. They wanted to join Folkestone Baptist Church, but Grandma Lily had been baptized as an infant and the preacher said he would have to do it again. Grandma stood her ground: “Are you saying it didn’t take the first time?”
So they had a church meeting and Grandma Lily argued her case. “I love Jesus,” she said, “he is my Lord and Savior. I follow him every day. I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and I later confirmed my commitment as a teenager. This is what we have in common.”
My grandmother became the first person to join that church without having been immersed as an adult. I am proud of my grandmother, and I am also proud of the church I grew up in.
We need to learn from that church:
America, in this year 2020, needs to be more like the church that embraced and loved my grandparents.
- Right now there are too many people saying: “We’re right and you’re wrong. The only way forward is my way. If you disagree then you are not a real American and you hate this country.”
- Then there are people who say, “Let’s talk about our differences, work out what we have in common, compromise where necessary, and get the job done. I know we all love this country and I believe that common ideal will see us through.”
The problem with the “if you disagree then you hate America” approach is it turns out that we’re all wrong a lot of the time. That’s why it’s so important to listen.
It’s no coincidence many of the same people who say, “You are not really saved if you don’t go along with our interpretation of the Bible” also accuse political opponents of “hating America.”
Leadership is about bringing people together, not tearing them apart and then doing everything in your power to exacerbate the division. We must stop seeing ourselves as “Red States” and “Blue States,” but as the “United” States.
Here are some random thoughts:
- if the founders had not disagreed so profoundly, the Constitution could not have been so masterfully crafted, and even that amazing document has to be occasionally amended over time;
- although we are “One Nation Under God,” there is no specifically American religion;
- there is no one American ethnicity and we are all descended from immigrants;
- millions have given their lives so that we could disagree profoundly but peaceably;
- everything we don’t have in common is exactly what we do have in common;
- when the two most essential elements of life (water and light) combine, light is revealed as a beautiful array of colors;
- when we confuse personal freedom with license then we have forgotten what it means to live in community;
Leadership brings us together:
There is more, of course, but at the heart of what I am expressing today is my conviction that leadership must be a heartfelt calling together that reveals all the colors, rather than a cynical splintering that leaves us in pieces.
All candidates are more wrong than right, and America needs its leaders to be humble enough to listen to one another and say, “Thank you, I need your perspective on that issue.”
The only way we can move forward from this most difficult of years, 2020, is together.
So here’s the cliche – for what it’s worth. “Hands across America, people.” Okay, let’s try that again: “Elbow bumps across America, friends!”
Socially distanced, of course, and masked. – DEREK