Connor Hughes is an outstanding young man: a member of 519church in Cary and recipient of a full scholarship to Appalachian State University, he graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in religious studies in three years. Connor is now a candidate for a Masters in Political Science and needs material for his thesis. So he called me.
I used to be the lead pastor for his entire church community and have always enjoyed Connor. He wants to do some research about how religious convictions shape our views of government, of federal spending in particular. He asked me how to get church support of what I know will be a carefully vetted, closely reviewed, and well-thought survey of church people about their understanding of biblical mandates for our actions. What he wants – the survey – however well-done and well-intentioned could be viewed with suspicion in this hyper-partisan time. I blinked.
Blinking was embarrassing. I’m one of this great guy’s former pastors. I have urged him to act on his convictions, respect those who disagree, but to push forward. And I blinked. I blinked because I don’t want to fuel the fires of divide in our country and, frankly, in the churches in my care. I blinked because I hear lots of folks, lay and clergy, people with very diverse views, sometimes castigate those who disagree with them without the grace of self-restraint that used to characterize civil discourse. I blinked because I hear so much suspicion in people of each other.
Fortunately, I had to go to a meeting. And though I was present at the meeting, my prayer and mind during that meeting were constantly centering on my stepping around Connor’s initial request for help in his research. God convicted me that it has come to the point where it’s probably wise to re-reflect on our actions related to how we live out our faith. More than ever we need to pray. More than ever we need to hear voices we might prefer to ignore. And we must act to honor God. We honor God by living out what we know to be right without violence, threat, or false accusation of our neighbor. We act by living out our faith and living it out in the public market place. That’s always been true but who in our culture hasn’t grown weary of these debates and doesn’t occasionally wonder about backing off, not engaging, checking out. It has come to this: that we must act in a right way now more than ever and call others to do the same.
And so I hope you will engage in respectful discussions in and out of the church – about church questions – and about what you as a Christian are called to do in the larger world. For Jesus’ sake: remember the question “WWJD?” which I always have understood to mean not just what would Jesus do in personal moral decisions but what would Jesus DO? What actions would he take? WWJD in our country and in our world? In the words of our nation’s poet laurate, Amanda Gorman, now so widely quoted, “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” As Christians we know Jesus is always there for us as the Light. He asks us to be a light for the world.
P.S. Connor’s survey is available at https://capitaldistrictnc.org/survey-from-connor-hughes/
If you would like to view past editions of Hello from Harvey, follow this link: https://capitaldistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/