In an article just prior to the 100-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency, Rich Harwood asks, “What about ‘our’ first 100 days – how are we responding to the challenges around us?”
Not well, according to Harwood.
He notes that the extreme anger and elation after the president’s election have only deepened since and that these emotions alone will not help get our communities – or society – where it needs to go.
They lock us into automatic reactions to our opponent’s perspectives and create fear of the other, which, in turn, fuels a tendency to demonize those who are different from ourselves.
Harwood suggests the ways we have responded to date “do not help us better understand different perspectives, what different people value and their real motivations. They do not lead us to open our eyes, ears and hearts so that we may see and hear others. They do not enable us to heal the wounds that people bear and find new solutions to old problems. They do not ask us to set aside our instinct to demonize others and instead see their humanity.”
Likewise, in The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan notes that since the election, “it’s been a race to the bottom, as the crudeness of the president is matched by that of ‘the resistance,’ with all of us being judged by how well – how thoroughly and consistently and elaborately – Šwe can hate each other. Nothing about this time is elevating. It’s just all of us – on the left and the right – sworn to our bitterness and anger.”
Sworn to bitterness and anger, demonizing others instead of seeing their humanity, judged by how thoroughly, consistently and elaborately we can hate each other. Surely, we who follow Jesus can do better than this when we are in the public square. Surely, we can walk a better path and invite others to do the same.
The apostle Paul offers one such approach. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Paul does not suggest we ignore our own interests but rather that these be tempered by the interests of others. Far from demonizing others, we are to be deferential, with humility counting others more significant than ourselves.
This does not mean we must deny our convictions nor that we should not stand up for what we believe is right. It does not mean we should not oppose what we regard as harmful, unjust or simply misguided.
However, the manner in which we conduct ourselves and engage others both within and beyond the church should honor the dignity of others as well as the call and claim of Christ.
Walking this better path won’t be as entertaining or as good for ratings as what currently passes for political discourse and commentary on cable news and comedy shows, but it will help us open our eyes, ears and hearts to truly see and hear others, heal wounds and find new solutions to old problems.
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen, a publication of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, where a version of this article first appeared. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @cramseylucas.