During my recuperation, I have asked several writers to do me the favor of serving as occasonal guest columnists. Today's eMo is by Elisabeth Eisenstadt.
Recently I attended a funeral at the church I had served as an associate rector.
Greeting friends after the burial office, I listened to a conversation between two of my former parishioners. In a conversation not unusual for that particular church, talk quickly turned to the sorry state of our current American culture and political scene.
Because most TV and radio fare was all about “flesh”, said one regretfully, she had chosen to tune most of it out. Instead these two women now got all of their information from syndicated radio host and newspaper writer Bill O’Reilley.
My voice wholly unsuited to the somber occasion, I sputtered “but…he is so right-wing!” Looking at me in gentle astonishment, with no evident respect for my clerical credentials as an authority figure, they dared to disagree. “He’s independent,” said the other woman.
We quickly moved on to safe topics. But as I drove to work this morning, listening to the BBC World Service, I reflected on how hot under the collar my conservative friends could get about National Public Radio. Their discomfort with that news outlet is only matched by my knee-jerk reaction to the Fox News Network.
I often told friends in my exceedingly liberal diocese that God had taught me one particular thing, among many, at my former parish: how to love Republicans.
In the course of teaching, counseling, preaching and socializing with those congregants who did not share my “moderate evangelical” point of view on politics, I discovered that they were equally sincere about their beliefs. Even more to the point, I began to see that their passionate faith meant we ended up serving in the same places, committed to the same mission: to embody Christ’s love in a broken world.
Yes, I am not a star pupil in the school of tolerance yet. I hope, in the future, I will not assume that those who disagree with my point of view on a particular social issue are misguided rednecks or hard-hearted SUV-toting yacht-owning members of the upper middle class.
In the Anglican Communion, currently torn by controversy, it would sometimes be helpful if we listened harder and spoke with more sensitivity and care. After all, God knows we are both saved and sinful. As much as He wants us to work for truth and justice, isn’t it possible that He is also delighted when we choose to display mercy, charity, and an open mind?
Now…where do I tune in to catch Bill O’Reilley?
Copyright 2004 Elisabeth Eisenstadt
The Rev. Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans is a priest associate at St. Mary’s, Wayne, Pa., and an Interim Communications Manager at Eastern Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.