How to Accept One Another in this Election Season

by Jim Eaton, lead pastor, Mosaic Church
Election Day 2016

In the following article, Converge pastor Jim Eaton seeks to help his congregation navigate diversity issues in the political arena. We believe what he says has broader application to our Converge movement in this time of political division. Over the next few days, be praying for our nation and our leaders.

I've never really cared for the term "tolerance." I get where its advocates are going, but it doesn't resonate with me. I prefer the biblical term "acceptance." Who likes to be tolerated? People don't want to be tolerated, they want to be accepted. Respected. Affirmed. Understood. Loved.

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:7).

If Jesus accepted you, I accept you.

But Houston, we have a problem. This is the most polarizing presidential election in memory. We are one nation divisible. And when you're seriously divided, it's harder to accept one another.

Welcome to my world. I pastor Mosaic, a truly rare church of Democrats, Republicans and Independents―all in one church. And we love one another. We accept one another. But out there, in the land of social media and CNN and Fox News, it seems as though this election is doing everything it can to tear us apart. No wonder 95 percent of churches give up on the dream of a truly diverse body of believers from every tribe and language and people and nation―and just go back to churches with their own kind. It's easier.

But is it better? Think with me.

The Pew Research Center put out a report a few months ago entitled "U.S. Religious Groups and Their Political Leanings."

They report the following religious groups lean Democrat: United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church USA. The following religious groups lean Republican: Presbyterian Church in America, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Southern Baptist Convention.

What this chart tells us is that religious groups that lean Democrat also lean liberal in their theology. Religious groups that lean Republican also lean conservative in their theology. Presbyterian Church USA = liberal. Presbyterian Church in America = conservative.

But if you look a little closer, you discover something else that's happening in religious America. The most Democrat-leaning religious groups are the National Baptist Convention and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. These are African-American churches who lean strongly Democrat but are not, by and large, theologically liberal. Many, if not most, are Democrat and theologically conservative.

What does this mean? Simply this. The template that shows Republican = conservative and Democrat = liberal applies to Anglo churches, but it does not apply to African-American churches. Nor does it apply to Latino and Asian churches, both of whom vote heavily Democrat as opposed to Republican.

In other words, the dividing line of understanding in America is racial and cultural. To be Democrat in the white community means something very different than to be Democrat in the black or Hispanic or Asian community. Democrats in the white community might advocate abortion and same-sex marriage, but Democrats of color do not. To think that being Republican suggests theological strength may apply in the white community but it doesn't apply in communities of color.

The color line still divides us all across this country, keeping us from being able to understand one another, in politics and in many other arenas of life. We live in silos and don't understand each other.

Your brothers and sisters who vote Republican don't do this because they don't care about the poor or immigrants or the oppressed; they vote that way because they care about the lives of the unborn, biblical sexuality and religious freedom. Your brothers and sisters who vote Democrat don't do so because they don't care for the lives of the unborn, biblical sexuality or religious freedom; they vote that way because they care for the poor and immigrants and the oppressed.

My plea to you is this: spend less time on social media and more time with one another. Listen. Really listen. Accept one another as family in Christ!

How will we learn to accept one another if we don't come together? If we don't learn to listen to each other's very different stories, experiences, wounds and hurts? Our very different perspectives, aspirations and dreams?

I believe that Mosaic (and other Converge churches) stand in a place of deep challenge, to be sure, but also immense hope. Why? Because we have the opportunity to be better than our society. We're the flashlight in the ruins. The lighthouse in the storm. As we learn to understand and accept one another―in Jesus―through him we shine a ray of hope in our hopelessly divided nation.

The Holy Spirit says that the goal of acceptance is this: "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4).

Hope! We may struggle to understand one another and accept one another. But we're better for it. We bring our frayed, broken, wounded community true hope. Hope in Jesus Christ!

So hang in there, church. We'll get through this. Together.

Jim Eaton is lead pastor of Mosaic Church, Frederick, Maryland.

    Point - September 2018

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