Last night, I watched, like many Americans, the presidential debate. My hobby is presidential history and elections, so for me watching a debate is part of indulging in something that I enjoy and, also, gives me rest.
I’m odd. I admit that from the onset.
That being said, we all watched with a sense of amazement at the disruption of civility in the debate. While debates, historically, do little to alter the outcome of an election, they do matter in shaping a narrative about the race going into the final stretch of an elongated campaign season. What we saw could be best described as a mixture between a school yard fight and professional wrestling.
This is who we have become.
We will post, even as I did last night, that we should expect better of our leaders. We should. Good and solid leadership points people and organizations towards a vision for the future and lays the groundwork for the strategies necessary to achieve that ideal. Poor and, even, chaotic leadership often is without a purpose or aim, and is often more like the stumbling boxer trying to swing at anything on the way to the mat.
We should expect and demand better of our leaders than chaotic and purposeless vision. At the same time, we should expect better of ourselves.
Too often we are a reflection of what we despise in our political process. We have become a society that is unable to engage in healthy conversation, accept differences of opinion, or seek compromise with one another. As a result, we are becoming a society that is slowly decaying from the foundations of faith and hope.
While we see this, most notably, in the political realm, we would be naive to assume it does not affect conversations within the church. General Conference, which is the body that speaks for the United Methodist Church on its polity and theology, has turned into a political atmosphere of anger-filled debate and rallies that are similar to a debate night. Our churches, themselves, have become more of a reflection of our favorite political party than of God’s kingdom. We distrust those who have a different theology than we do, and assume the worst of those that disagree with us.
Just like our politicians. Just like us. So long as we are willing to dismiss one another in our conversations, we cannot expect our leaders to do anything else in their conversations.
We have to demand better of them. We have to demand better of ourselves.
It begins with seeking the good in one another.
It begins in praying for those with whom we disagree with that God’s love will be with them, and that we may see in them what God sees in them.
It begins in finding common purpose and values with one another.
It begins in refusing to accept hatred and anger as the norm for our discourse.
It begins in wanting better for ourselves, our churches, and our community.
And it begins in me, as it begins in us.