New Fall Sermon Series: ”Common Ground“
This Sunday, September 13th, I will begin a new fall sermon series called “Common Ground: Unity in a Polarized World”. We will be studying Jesus’ most famous set of teachings known as The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7).
As you know, this is a challenging text. The bar is high. Jesus is very concerned with our hearts, motives, and our intentions.
Since its inception, the Christian Church (DOC) has always been about unity. It is our polar star. We are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. We believe that which unites us is greater than that which divides us. We believe in a “big tent” approach to Christianity where people of all different faith backgrounds, denominations, politics, and ideologies are welcome and are united by the love of Christ.
This always gets tested during a heated election season. However, we can quickly forget to focus on the many things that unite us. Instead, we dwell on what divides us.
People do not see eye to eye on many different issues – taxes, immigration, health care, abortion, war – just to name a few. Still, we are called to love each other, respect each other, listen to each other, and be the church.
I am teaching a class at Vanderbilt this fall called “Faith, Politics, and Polarization in American Culture.” In the class and here at church, I am recommending Arthur Brooks’ excellent book titled “Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt.” This book is very timely and relevant for this election season.
Brooks’ main thesis is that we now live in a culture of contempt and outrage that is toxic and unhealthy. Social scientists define contempt as, “anger mixed with disgust.” According to Brooks, “Contempt makes you unhappy, unhealthy, and unattractive even to those who agree with you. Hating others is associated with depression. Contempt will wreck your relationships and harm your health. It is a dangerous vice, like smoking or drinking too much.”
He says, “There’s been a denigration of respect in the dialogue of this country. It’s always us verses them…Republicans thinking they’re better than Democrats. Democrats thinking they’re better than Republicans. People from the coast thinking they are better than people inland. It goes on and on, and I think it is very harmful.”
Social media only fuels the flames. Brooks acknowledges that we did not get to this place overnight, but we are aware that our public discourse is far from healthy.
How can Christians be a part of the solution? How can we tone down the divisive rhetoric? One of the answers is to focus more on Christ and his teachings.
For Arthur Brooks, the antidote is warm-heartedness and love, principles that lie at the heart of the world’s great religions. And not just love for those with whom we agree, but love for those with whom we disagree. That’s what is lacking in this culture. We have reached a point where people fear and demonize anybody who does not see the world, politics, or social issues the same way they do. We need solutions for addressing this.
I believe that Jesus gives us a formula for dealing with this in the Sermon on the Mount. Politics does not define us, red or blue, right or left. Our faith in Jesus Christ does.
I encourage you to join me this fall in studying the Sermon on the Mount and in reading this excellent book by Arthur Brooks. Together, we can make a difference in this culture.
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