There’s a religious program that comes on early Sunday mornings after Saturday Night Live on NBC called Your Move with Andy Stanley. I happened to watch that program this past Sunday and it reminded me of something I’ve known for a long time and have even spoken about on this blog. It reminded me that the reason we hate the people we despise most in life is because they reflect back to us the things we despise most in ourselves. They show us how we look to other people when we express those feelings and viewpoints we have spent our entire lives suppressing. To hide these things, we have created a whole personality that exists to do nothing but display to others that we are not that person who we truly are.
At a time when the country is almost equally divided between Trump supporters and Trump haters, I think it is important this Christmas season that both sides think about what it is about the people on the other side that we hate so much in ourselves. If we are ever to come to a mutual understanding and respect for each other, this is where it begins. It’s important that we do this because the one thing we have in common is that both sides believe the other side is going straight to hell when they die. We have seen clear examples from Middle Eastern countries, African countries and the former Yugoslavia, of what happens when a country divides itself up into groups that believe the opposing group is going straight to hell when they die. Both groups wind up in a hell on Earth.
Most Christians believe that Christ’s primary mission on Earth was to give and teach us grace. Grace, as defined by Andy Stanley is the ability to see God in those we claim to despise, for in so doing, see God in ourselves. We don’t do it because we deserve it or because we are worthy of it. In fact, we do it knowing that we don’t deserve it and out of the understanding that deserve it or not, we are all worthy God’s love. That was Christ’s example through his life and his message to us.
So this Christmas, when the after dinner debate starts, remember what’s at stake. Instead of immediately condemning the person on the other side, start with the question “Help me understand what you see in me that causes me to be in opposition with you on this issue”. It’s an interesting question because it’s actually asking for a true understanding of the beliefs of the person being questioned, without judgment. It offers the opportunity for the person who is the respondent of the question to show what they can see about Trump that the questioner can’t see. At same time it affords the questioner the opportunity to see if the respondent truly understands their point of view. The question is only effective if both the questioner and respondent are communicating in good faith, not with the objective to covert the other person to their way of thinking, but simply to understand the other person. If both sides respond sincerely, they will have given each other the gift of understanding. Understanding and acceptance of those who differ from you is a form of grace. It says though I may not agree with you, I understand that we are all products of our upbringing and can only do the best we can with the information we have. I think this kind of disagreement without judgment is what Christ was trying to teach us. In the end, we will all be judged collectively for the collective choices we make as a society, regardless of which side is right or wrong. If our choices result in a world of war and suffering in a poisonous environment or a world of peace, health and prosperity, both sides will have to live with the results. So in a sense we will not be judged for the errors of our ways but by the errors of our ways. Collectively, we are always judging and sentencing ourselves.
I would like to take this time to wish everyone reading this blog, Merry Christmas or whatever the spirit of that kind of blessing is in your religion. My Christmas wish is that by this time next year we will again be united as a country and as humanity.