What do you expect to hear in the forthcoming 365 days as we approach the 2020 national election? Do you clench up a bit – anticipating rancor in the airwaves, on screens… not even excluding at coffee shops, dinner tables and perhaps even Fellowship Halls?
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was among those who helped shape “Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics” out of concern about the polarization in our country by emphasizing the applicability of Christian ethical principles to our political discussions. “We believe that we can find guidance through this national dilemma in the teachings of Jesus,” reads a Statement of Support joined by the ELCA and several other Christian denominations and organizations. It continues:
“In particular, we believe that Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have the do unto you” should be taken seriously by Christians who engage in political activity. We also believe that if enough people follow this ‘Golden Rule’ principle, it will help generate the respect and civility we so desperately need in our country.’”
“When our tone is automatically uncivil and it’s automatically accusatory, how can we ever hope that we’re actually going to communicate with somebody else if we’ve already belittled and accused them?” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a Religion News Service article (10/31/19) highlighting that civility is not mutually exclusive to speaking out against injustice.
Bishop Eaton drew present applicability in the article from Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment in the Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”
On November 3, 2019 and in the year ahead, congregations and individuals are invited to pray for the healing of the divisions in our country and promote the use of the Golden Rule in our own political discussions and election activities in 2020. Resources affiliated with the Golden Rule 2020 movement include a #ReviveCivility pledge from the National Institute for Civil Discourse plus games and activities such as “Media Literacy for High School Students” and an one-on-one discussion guide.
Christians have differing theological and political views. The Golden Rule can give us guidance when we need to come together to solve our common problems.