November 13, 2016
Emotions have dominated the presidential campaign. In months to come emotions will be a leading force in the way people express their political preferences. So often emotions have been framed as inferior. But research on emotional intelligence and emotional awareness is telling us emotions should be taken more seriously. This election campaign, before and after the election of Donald Trump as our 45th president, makes the same argument. People on both sides of the political camps are speaking and voting with emotion, because reason or science, arguments or logic have made them left hurt rather than feel heard.
As a church community, especially as a bipartisan community like our beloved Trinity Church, we now are facing the tall order of bringing unity, reconciliation and deep understanding for the emotions whirling on both sides of the (political) aisle. The primary task we face as a church community is doing this ministry and labor of helping people process these emotions that are not just real, but that speak of an experience of living in America that has not be heard or told or transferred into policy in a way that alleviates or remedies the causes of their pain, their fear, and their sadness, caused by a myriad of circumstances.
In discussing this church task at hand, Lucile Bruce and her husband (and our deacon) Kyle Pedersen suggested we take a look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together. It is a very blessed suggestion! Published in 1939, Bonhoeffer stressed how being Christian means community. That is what Christ brought as one of his first actions: bringing people together, across the political, socio-cultural, and moral dividing lines of his time. Life Together through Christ does not happen in spite of political differences, but after working ourselves through the emotional fold-lines that are carved in us by the divisions. The following quote from Bonhoeffer’s book goes straight to the heart of the church service work we need to reignite today. I apologize if the quote pulls you right away into the crux of the book. Copies of the book will be arriving on Monday. But please join us this Sunday at 10am during our Sunday Forum to start this healing conversation about Life Together. May God bless our president-elect Donald Trump, may God bless our country, and may God bless our efforts to join each other in order to build the unity and mutual compassion we all need.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 33-34:
“Human love is by its very nature desire—desire for human community. So long as it can satisfy this desire in some way, it will not give it up, even for the sake of truth, even for the sake of genuine love for others. But where it can no longer expect this desire to be fulfilled, there it stops short—namely, in the face of an enemy. There it turns into hatred, contempt, and calamity. Right here is the point where spiritual love begins. This why human love becomes personal hatred when it encounters genuine spiritual love, which does not desire but serves. Human love makes itself an end in itself. It creates of itself an end, an idol which it worships, to which it must subject everything. It nurses and cultivates an ideal, it loves itself, and nothing else in the world. Spiritual love, however, comes from Jesus Christ, it serves him alone; it knows that it has no immediate access to other persons. Jesus Christ stands between the lover and the others he loves. I do not know in advance what love of others means on the basis of the general idea of love that grows out of my human desires—all this may rather be hatred and an insidious kind of selfishness in the eyes of Christ. What love is, only Christ tells in his Word. Contrary to all my own opinions and convictions, Jesus Christ will tell me what love toward the brethren really is. Therefore, spiritual love is bound solely to the Word of Jesus Christ. Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it.”