Thursday, April 12, 2012

Political Differences

Last week, at the height of Holy Week, I officiated over the funeral of a member of my former church.   He was 92, and even though often at that age the circle of those who gather can be minimal, the service was remarkably well attended.  Family and friends and church folk were there in abundance, because he was a genuinely remarkable person.

He was a self-made man, who'd worked his way up to being a really rather successful lawyer.  He was also very staunchly conservative.  How staunchly?  Well, he represented Haldeman and Erlichman in the Watergate trials.  Or, rather, the Watergate affair.   A delightful poem I read in his honor by one of his daughters at the funeral included a reference to a family in-joke about an exchange he had with Nixon.

Conservative He and Liberal I had some rather significant political differences, which would surface on occasion in our conversations.

And yet none of it really ever seemed to matter.  He was a gracious host, remarkably supportive of my efforts as a wet-behind-the-ears youngish liberal pastor, and possessed of a flexible and engaged intellect.  Where we would disagree, there was a remarkable level of mutual tolerance.  What differences we did have just gave us a little more to talk about.

Getting to know him was a pleasure, and when I told the family I'd be honored to be a part of the remembrance his life, I wasn't just being polite.  It really was an honor.

It was also a reminder of how dangerous it is to get siloed.  If the only people we know are exactly like us, believe like us, and echo our every thought back at us, then we lose the ability to see the real and significant grace in others.  Particularly the others who are different from us.  When we do that, and allow our own preferences and predilections to calcify into disdain or active animosity towards those who do not share them, then our capacity for grace shrivels.

This is not a good thing, for us, for our culture, or...if we're Christian...for our congregations.