I, like most, have multiple tribes of which I consider myself a part. This weekend I ate with, spoke with, worshiped with, learned from, and was amazed by a new tribe of people. There was kinship, and a sense of shared experience, struggle, fear, and hope among this new tribe.
I was glad to hear something in Brian McLaren's session on "scared to talk politics in church?" It wasn't something Brian said but rather something from someone who doesn't look like me, and who had on a shirt I probably wouldn't wear. He spoke up in the Q&A at the beginning of the session (which was a fantastic idea, thanks Brian). This man had noticed in many conversations in the working groups and among conference attendees that while no one was out and out bashing either political party he noticed that more often people would speak favorably about the "more progressive" political party and "jabingly" about the "more conservative" political party. Now as one who is coming from a more conservative background and who is now very much wanting to find a political third way to let my faith fully inform my public policy, I noticed this underlying level in conversations happening here.
I understand that for many Americans who grew up democrat, progressive and Christian, or came to faith later in life, the current dominance of hyper-conservatives in the national faith conversation, namely the "religious right," has left them hurt, angry and wanting the balance to change. They have fought for justice and felt other Christians fighting against them.
This issue is real. The hurt is real and the pain is real. The polarization this country has experienced divides Christian who share the same Christ, just as it has divided the rest of the country. Theology may differ some or a lot, political agendas may be wildly different, and we may come from different sides of town, but we share a common God and ought to behave like it.
McLaren already planned to deal with this issue in his PowerPoint presentation. The conversation was wonderful when we came to that slide. He pointed to many places where conservatives are right and where they are wrong, and where democrats are right and where they are wrong.
All this being said- these people are my tribe. We share a faith in Jesus. I now share a budding passion for justice, ending poverty and for ending human trafficking with people who I have stayed separate from in my public and faith life. This conference is not the beginning of the process of reconciliation for me, but it is a major stepping stone in the continuing process. I am called to love my brother and the stranger.
God cares for the poor, so should I. God cares for the stranger, so should I. God cares for creation, so should I. God cares for the orphan, so should I. God cares for people who don't vote like me, so should I. God cares...so should I.
It sounds so simple to seek first the Kingdom of God. I make it very complicated.
Shelton Green works as a government affairs consultant in Texas and blogs at www.inreformation.com.