As an ordained United Methodist Church minister myself, when I speak at home or around the country, I am exceedingly particular about the language I use to express my support for, or opposition to, political or policy positions. I am humble enough to recognize clearly that the voice of God that I hear is sometimes really my voice in disguise, and therefore I am on guard to prevent my ideology from becoming my theology; to do so is dangerously divisive and further encourages political division.
The Faith & Freedom attendees may not share my theology, or my politics, but, to be sure, there is a common tenet that guides our personal interactions—the Golden Rule. In fact the world’s monotheistic religions—Christianity, Islam and Judaism—teach the Golden Rule, and when practiced, it propels us toward the greater good.
And because our government has seemingly ceased to function at a level where the critical issues facing us as a nation are addressed, my hope is that further polarization will not only be avoided, but transposed. That can only happen if we, the men and women of faith, begin to teach that scorn, division and want of forbearance will not nourish a single hungry child or rebuild a decrepit highway. If we show that cooperation is superior to coercion, we can play a most important role in assuring a bright future for our progeny. Though faith and freedom may mean something different to each of us, they are not defined by adherence to a rigid dogma.
Faith and freedom are embodied by how we treat our fellow Americans; the active compassion we offer those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves caught in the vice of life. Our faith, I believe, must guide us not by fractious language, but by plainspokenness rooted in respect; not by attributing malarkey to motives, but by awarding opponents the benefit of the doubt.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, a Democrat, has represented the 5th Congressional District of Missouri in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2005. The district encompasses the majority of Kansas City, where he also served as that city’s first black mayor from 1991 to 1999. He is the immediate past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, a senior whip of the House Democratic Caucus and former senior pastor of Kansas City’s St. James Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter.
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