Welcome to our weekly discussion of the ways that world news, the Word of God, and our own lives intersect. The material in this post is drawn from The Wired Word (thewiredword.com). Please feel free to join in the discussion throughout the week by adding your own responses and experiences in the "comments" section (click on "comments" at the end of the post to add your comments), then continue the conversation with other members in person on Sunday at Coffee Hour! Blessings, Sylvia+
In the News
Last weekend, someone threw a firebomb through the window of a Republican party office in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and spray-painted an adjacent building with a swastika and the words "Nazi Republicans leave town or else." The blaze did a good deal of damage to the inside of the office before going out on its own.
Within hours, however, one Massachusetts Democrat took action to raise money to reopen the building. David Weinberger set up a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $10,000 to help rebuild the GOP office.
On the GoFundMe page, Weinberger wrote:
As Democrats, we are starting this campaign to enable the Orange County, North Carolina, Republican office to reopen as soon as possible. Until an investigation is undertaken, we cannot know who did this or why. No matter the result, this is not how Americans resolve their differences. We talk, we argue, sometimes we march, and most of all we vote. We do not resort to violence by individuals or by mobs.
Within 40 minutes of posting the page, the goal was reached and surpassed, for a total of $13,117. At that point, no further donations were accepted. Instead, Weinberger suggested that those who still wished to give, contribute to a North Carolina classroom through DonorsChoose.
Among those who appended comments to the GoFundMe page were some who voiced conspiracy theories and others who wanted to argue politics. A few said that the matter should be left for insurance coverage to pay for, and there were even a couple of comments from people who seemed to misunderstand the fundraising effort. Many more comments, however, were supportive, as these samples indicate:
"I'm a Democrat but I don't believe in violence," wrote one man who made a $25 donation.
Another said, "I lean more towards the conservative side, but want to say that I feel everyone involved in this fundraiser is a class act. Thank you for showing everyone that, regardless of political affiliations, we are all Americans and we take care of each other."
Still another wrote, "Not a Republican, but we all stand together against such anti-democratic violence." Even after donations were closed, comments continued. One person wrote "Bravo, folks -- I'm sorry I missed the cutoff for donations. This is exactly the necessary and appropriate response." Another said, "I am voting for Hillary, but I condemn this violence, and attack on our voting process. The people responsible for this must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If the campaign had not been cut off, I would have donated. I am sorry that this happened to my fellow citizens."
More on this story can be found at these links:
Democrat-Led Crowdfunding Campaign Raises $13,000 to Help Reopen Firebombed NCGOP Office. Fox 8
Democrats Raise $13K to Reopen Firebombed GOP Headquarters. USA Today
Firebombing of G.O.P.Office Jolts Fragile Balance of a North Carolina Town. The New York Times
Dems Help Reopen a NC Repub Office. GoFundMe
The Big Questions
1. To what degree should Christians engage in political discussions, and why?
2. In what ways, if at all, do you engage in political discussions with people who support a candidate you do not support? What do you do if the conversation becomes heated? Is what you do when it becomes heated the same as what, according to your Christian faith, you feel you should do?
3. In what ways, if any, do you try to give the views of those you don't agree with politically a fair hearing? If you don't do this, should you? Why or why not?
4. To what extent should strong opinions on a single issue, such as abortion or who gets to appoint the next Supreme Court justice, affect how we engage with people who see that issue differently?
5. When, based on a discussion with someone who supported your candidate's opponent, have you reconsidered who you would vote for? What made that conversation helpful and/or persuasive?
Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope
One of the difficulties of using the Bible to discuss the actions of citizens who have the right to vote to select leaders is that the people of the Bible did not live under that form of government. Thus the Bible offers no verses specifically about living in such a society. Nonetheless, the following verses may be helpful:
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
This is the "Golden Rule," from Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. The "law and the prophets" refers to the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament), which was the scripture available in Jesus' day, and so Jesus is saying that the essence of scripture is contained in this Golden Rule principle.
The excellent paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, words the verse this way: "Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get."
Questions: Might the GoFundMe me page be seen as an application of the Golden Rule? Why or why not? When have you done something similar for someone who opposed your views?
1 John 4:20
Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (For context, read 4:16-21.)
Questions: Who today are the "brothers and sisters" to whom this verse refers? Could they include the supporters of your candidate's opponent? Why or why not? How do you feel about the "liars" accusation in this verse?
What is the love to which this verse refers? Is it a warm feeling? a neighborly obligation? a sacrificial action? material giving? an absence of malice? forgiveness for wrongs? all of the above?
Responding to the News
This is a good time to recall 1 Timothy 2:1-2, which says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity." Here the apostle Paul offers direction that we Christians should take to heart, both now and after the presidential election, regardless of who wins.
This is also a good time to consider what the relationship is between godliness and prayer, and to contemplate why Paul says prayer should be about matters not only related to the church, but far beyond it as well.
Lord God, as this election approaches, help us to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our country, and how the gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens. We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity. And no matter who is elected, may his or her leadership take us in the right ways. In Jesus' name. Amen.