Taking the Side of Love
By The Rev. David R. Chatel
The U.S. has been caught in a cycle of political and social polarization for some time now. Each of us can share stories of how this polarization is impacting our personal lives. We all know the experience of strained relationships, uncomfortable conversations, and at times, even real conflict. During the general upheaval of the last two years, it seems as though everyone has taken sides, and that everyone has their own version of what is true.
Taking sides is nothing new. It’s part of our sociological DNA as humans to separate into tribes for survival. While we’re no longer running from saber-toothed tigers and depending on our tribe for daily survival, a deep drive persists within the human experience to be part of a group…something bigger than ourselves. The shadow side of that human tendency lies in embracing extreme ideological polarization when we relate to each other. It’s far too common to witness behaviors from ideologically polarized groups that say, “Our group is the best, our way is the best way, and God agrees with us!” I believe something different is asked of those who would call themselves Christians.
One of the most powerful and challenging things about following Jesus is the call to measure one’s actions and treatment of others by the rule of God’s unconditional love. Though we humans might struggle with receiving love without condition, we are also confounded by the idea that those who are different from us are also such recipients. God’s unconditional love is the basis of the objective truth we are called to discover within ourselves. As we discover this truth at work within us, it inspires and powers the practical application of how we interact with everyone we encounter. Love is the guardrail that demands we adhere to God’s objective truth in relation to others. Love calls us to make decisions that agree with these truths. If we disregard the framework of love, we automatically disregard the framework of truth. This is why allegiance to subjective truth, especially in matters of how we treat others, can lead to mistreatment, demonization, and division.
It’s all summed up in the last few statements of our Baptismal Covenant. We agree to act on the belief that Christ is found and served in ALL people, and that ALL people deserve to be treated with dignity, and live in justice and peace. As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, we bind ourselves to these truths beyond all opinion or conjecture because through them, God has been revealed in us. Through this encounter with the truth of God in us, we are being transformed. Through that transformation, we testify to a mystery that supersedes doctrinal statements and personal opinions. We arrive at a place where arguments about who is left or right, right or wrong, and in or out are overshadowed by the breath of God breathing simultaneously in our lungs…the essence of God filling each cell of our bodies…connecting us to each other as one.