Washington, DC, November 3, 2010
Having Faith in America
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Washington, D.C.—Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III released the following statement today in response to the 2010 election results.
Americans, regardless of how or if they voted yesterday, awoke this morning in a country bruised by yet another election cycle punctuated with ugly accusations and extreme rhetoric. After a season of nonstop negative ads and predictions of doom from across the political spectrum, our nation seems more deeply divided than ever. We could feel justified—even righteous—in losing faith not only in our system of government but also in our fellow Americans.
But as one pundit recently put it, these are hard times, not end times. These election results, which at first glance seem to cement the enormous divide between us, could instead offer hope and possibility for our nation and our faith in each other. Despite the lingering taste of vitriol in many political mouths, it will be difficult now to accomplish anything in Washington and in many state capitols and local councils without simply talking—and listening—to one another.
Two years ago, on the eve of the 2008 presidential election, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that the reason to stay in communion with those with whom we disagree is to leave open the possibility of conversion. Not a conversion in which one’s political opponents see the error of their ways in a flash as the scales fall from their eyes, but the far greater and more elusive possibility of a conversion that compels us to see our opponents as human beings, worthy of respect and possessing God-given dignity.
If we can steady ourselves to endure it, this conversion could be at hand, in which we recognize liberals and conservatives, Tea Partiers and socialists, libertarians and every one else, as fellow children of God with hopes and fears and failings similar to our own. Here at Washington National Cathedral, we saw evidence of its possibility last month at the 2010 Nancy and Paul Ignatius Program, in which David Axelrod, Joshua Bolten, and Senator Susan Collins came together to discuss how to restore civility to our common life. None too soon, the Ignatius Program launched a yearlong Cathedral-sponsored discussion about civility and purposeful discourse in politics.
By holy coincidence, the church calendar offers us both some balm and a way forward. In the Anglican tradition, today is the feast of Richard Hooker, a sixteenth-century scholar who lived in a time when Christians battled and bloodied one another with arguments over doctrine and discipline that would sound familiar to us at least in style, if not in substance. In the midst of that great divide known as the Reformation, Hooker applied his learning and his “moderate, patient, and serene character” to charting a middle way that endures today, four centuries later, as a testament to the power of calm reasoning and charity in the face of intractable controversy.
Today at the National Cathedral and across the Episcopal Church, we remember Hooker with a prayer that asks God to “grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth” (Holy Women, Holy Men, 667). As our newly elected officials take up the task of governing, I pray that they too may be converted to the middle way of speaking civilly, listening carefully, and granting to one another recognition of the common humanity already given to them by God.
About Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral is a church for national purposes called to embody God’s love and to welcome people of all faiths and perspectives. A unique blend of the spiritual and the civic, this Episcopal cathedral is a voice for generous-spirited Christianity and a catalyst for reconciliation and interfaith dialogue to promote respect and understanding. We invite all people to share in our commitment to create a more hopeful and just world.
SOURCE: Washington National Cathedral