Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress, The 4th of July has always been a time for me to reflect on what it means to be an American. It is also a time for me to consider what being an American means in the context of my Christian faith. Let’s face it. Our United States isn’t so united. In fact, we’re deeply divided on many issues. And so I’ve been thinking about what Jesus teaches me (and maybe could teach us all) about living with God in charge. That’s what The Kingdom of God is all about, isn’t it?Did you ever stop to think about Jesus’ disciples, who they were and how they might have gotten along? There was Peter and his brother Andrew, James and John, all fishermen. Fishermen in Jesus’ day were controlled by syndicates who dictated what they earned, how they fished and so on. Fishermen were not very happy with government controls. Simon the Zealot. Zealots were a political party of sorts, ones who advocated the overthrow of the occupying Roman government. Philip and Nathaniel. Nathaniel had a very low opinion of Nazarenes, which is where Jesus lived. And Matthew. A tax collector. A collaborator with the Romans. No one liked tax collectors. These first disciples were hand-picked by Jesus. One would have thought Jesus would have picked a much more agreeable group, like-minded folks who always got along. But that is not who Jesus chose. No, he chose a very diverse group of people, men who by all rights would not have wanted to be together. As it turns out, my denomination is divided pretty much along the same political lines of America. We almost split into two last year. Over issues that you are fighting over as well. Our bishops formed a working group in order to find a way forward that might keep us united. The first thing the group did was survey our 9 million members. We were categorized into four groups (what you would call liberal and conservative). Liberal non-collaborative, Liberal collaborative, Conservative non-collaborative and Conservative collaborative. What is interesting is the total percentage of the non-collaborative folks, those who say, “My way or the highway” is only about 14% of the total. That means about 86% of our members disagree on some important things, but want to work together to find a way forward. For the good of all concerned. I think the percentages might mirror our national feelings as well. It seems to me that Jesus honored diverse points of views, and encouraged his followers to figure out ways to cooperate, and collaborate, in order to find a way forward that would benefit all concerned. Isn’t that what our Declaration of Independence and Constitution say? “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” And, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (Italics mine)  We all have a responsibility not just to those we like or agree with, but to all concerned.We have more in common than many of you would have us believe. And we are stronger together than many of you can imagine. Grace and peace, and God’s blessing, be with us all.Reverend Ron Griffen