Being Surprised By Love For An “Enemy”

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Posted on November 7th, 2012 | Filed under Featured, Popular Culture, Social Issues, Topic of the Week
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Himalayan_Dawn

I'm posting this on Election Day, because it just occurred to me now. I'm also writing today as the only thing I can write as, sometimes: as a Christian. I hope that those of other faiths can find something in my words, but today, I am musing within my own tradition. Feel free to share how you might consider the same in the comments.

I saw the following video today, discovered through Andrew Sullivan's blog and need to share it. I start by saying that while I personally disagree with a lot that was said here, there's more at stake for me in this video than a simple disagreement.

I suddenly and powerfully feel a lot of empathy for this man that I've been opposed to and continue to stand against. My heart is full for him, and who he is, and how that has sometimes been hidden from me and from us by the sinfulness of this political season.

He's been criticized for appearing prickly in the video above. But look: I've felt this way before. I've experienced the feeling that happens when you're attacked for something related to your faith, but attacked in a way that doesn't actually comport to what you believe, but rather according to a popular caricature or stereotype of what you believe. It's easy to get prickly.

I just...I feel for the man. He's a minority in an often tyrannically majoritarian society. I wish he had embraced that social position a little bit more -- and used his influence to help people in his party think about people who inhabit these spaces. Heck, I wish that, even though I think it might have won him a few more votes. Because what's the victory of someone you disagree with, when compared to the chance that that victory might spread a little more compassion, a little more hope, a little more empathy, a little more truth.

I've often wondered about what Jesus might say about this election, and I'll admit my musings can never be more than an imagining. But I imagine still, and I imagine that he'd look at the entire church, its liberals and its conservatives, its holy fools on both sides, and say, "Come, come, my faithless, faithless people. What are you so afraid of? The one you disagree with may win. But on the next day, the sun will rise. On the next day, you will awake to the possibility of glory and the reality of vulnerability. On the next day, I will provide. Be not afraid! Be not afraid! Did I not say that I would be with you, always -- even to the ending of this age? Take heart, and do not fear."

And watching this video, I can't help but think that as much as I'll be celebrating tonight if Obama wins, as I expect he will, that Mitt Romney was a better man than I thought he was; trapped in a system more wicked than I had first imagined. The same might be said of all of us.

All I can conclude with is this: be well, friends I know and friends I might one day make, and be strong. Love one another more dearly tomorrow than you love one another today. No matter which color your blood runs -- and no matter who you are, it runs both blue and red -- we are the same Body. I think I'm going to try, when I wake up tomorrow, to act a bit more like I believe that to be true.

(Image: "Himalayan Dawn" by Paul Hamilton, attribution via Creative Commons.)

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2 Responses to “Being Surprised By Love For An “Enemy””

  1. Madison McClendon says:

    Here’s a direct link to the video I was referencing, at the time in the video that caught my attention. It’s a long one, and the video embed wasn’t working quite right, but the link should help out.

  2. Hilary J. Scarsella says:

    Madison, I had similar feelings around election day this year. Thankfully, Tuesday (election day) evening my church held a special communion service that focused on bringing blue voters together with red voters and declaring together that our true hope is in God, and that we will love each other even though we believe differently. It was meaningful, and it is a whole movement. There were over 800 Mennonite churches that did the same around the country. And, Huffington post covered the wider ecumenical movement here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/election-day-communion-aims-to-heal-partisan-breach_n_2003981.html

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Madison McClendon grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, where he fell in love with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien at a young age. Growing up, he attended First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, and continues to find his religious home in the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, though his Chicago context is encouraging him to make connections with the American Baptist Churches. He graduated magna cum laude from Furman University with a degree in Religion and Political Science in 2009, and continued his education by pursuing a Master of Divinity Degree at the University of Chicago. At the University of Chicago, Madison was a Schloerb Fellow and a Fund for Theological Education Congregational Fellow, and he graduated in 2012. Madison pursued academic work in religion and literature, specifically examining how fantasy texts and religious texts might illuminate each other. In addition to these studies, Madison also took classes on preaching and pastoral arts, and is interested in how the fruits of the academy can be applied carefully to the building of productive, healthy religious communities.


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