Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first presidential inaugural address on March 4, 1933 gave us a powerful imagery of strength and unity in the face of crisis. Here is short excerpt of the opening section:
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”Franklin D. Roosevelt
Because of enemies abroad and some who are homegrown, we now experience a tsunami of digital disinformation and deception, intentionally designed to create enmity. These forces wishing to harm us, are fully aware of their inability to overcome us militarily, yet are savvy to our vulnerabilities of division and disunity. The over-abundance of information of social media is a two-edged sword that keeps our population much better informed, yet unfortunately, painfully misled at times by disreputable sources. I do not believe the mainstream media is the enemy of the people. Though every news source has a bias—including mainstream news—there is a built-in accountability for traditional sources of news and information that is often lacking in social media.
You may disagree. Honestly, that is fine with me. We can agree to disagree, without being disagreeable. Without a doubt, if we will apply the “Golden Rule”, we can weather these troubled times together and come out stronger. While we will always have differences on political issues, simple decency and mutual respect can restore productive debate and give us hope for stability. Because truly, the only thing we need to be worried about is the spread of suspicion and paranoia. Unreasonable fear is volatile, and can rapidly explode into violence.
While accepting the nomination of his party for the race to become the senator from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln popularized a statement made by Jesus: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25). I believe we are approaching a crisis point as we draw closer to the 2020 national elections. We are on track for doing what no outside force could accomplish militarily: destroy ourselves by losing faith and trust in the goodness of our neighbor. It is not too late to turn this discord around.
At some point, hateful words become violent actions. History is replete with infamous examples of evil furor degrading into bloodshed, murder, and genocide. We are better than this; let us remember our fundamental values that allow for dialogue and dissent, without fear of retribution.
America is headed for a crisis unless we remember who we are and whose we are, especially those of us who self-identify as Christians. We must actively avoid demonizing our fellow citizens who support the opposing political party. These are our associates, friends, and family members. Let us remember to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for our anger does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Love God. Love our neighbor as ourselves. Make disciples of Jesus who reflect his character and priorities. The Church carries this responsibility, regardless of who wins elections. Let us remember that Christians are called to be “salt and light” in this world has little of either. Our actions can help rebuild unity and mutual respect across national and personal differences. Our attitudes can help bring calm in the middle of a cultural storm. We do this best by reflecting basic respect for all; even for those with whom we disagree. Respect for each other overcomes our disunity and gives us hope.
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