JOPLIN, Mo. —
Imagine the life of political candidates as they finesse their way through a long and arduous campaign, when one slip-up can result in devastating consequences.
It happened in Indiana. Richard Mourdock, in his bid for re-election to Congress, saw what he believed to be an opening to score political points when he hastily and carelessly said, "I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Opponents launched an all-out blitz, sensing the possibility of a knockout punch, thereby ending Mourdock's hope for re-election. Mourdock's staff rushed into damage control mode. Statements of clarification were prepared. Interviews were arranged. Mourdock himself publicly acknowledged that the statement was poorly worded and ill-advised.
Christians were lined up on both sides of this explosive situation. Those in support of Mourdock were either in agreement with the original statement or were sympathetic with the clarification. They could not understand how other Christians could think differently.
Christians who opposed Mourdock's statements were quick to condemn. They rejected the clarification as nothing more than political hype, designed to repair the damage already done. They, too, did not understand how other Christians could think otherwise.
The world watches as the rhetoric grows harsh and embittered. Anger erupts as feelings intensify. Hurtful accusations are delivered as though they are body blows in a boxing match.
What unfolds is a full-fledged political fight with both sides claiming God is on their side. Eventually, one's personal faith is called into question.
This really hit home for me a few days ago, when my daughter related the story of my 14-year-old grandson coming home from school with the news that Republicans are Christians and Democrats are not.
My daughter, who tends to vote Republican, by the way, talked with him about how Christians of strong faith can and do have differing opinions about important subjects. When she broke the news to him that some of their best friends and members of their extended family are Democrats, he was quite surprised.
I chuckle at the image of him hearing this news. I am proud of the way my daughter dealt with the matter. As difficult as it is to do, my grandson must learn to allow for differences of opinion between good people.
I have often said that when two people totally agree, one of them is unnecessary. And yet I, as well as you, have a difficult time understanding how someone might honestly think differently on any given matter.
Nevertheless, we must learn to make this work.
Do we not see the damage being done to the church when we Christians tear one another asunder? If the church is the body of Christ in today's world, then what are the implications of the way we are treating one another?
Do we not see the damage being done to the mission of the church? It is ironic that the louder we argue about God and reject one another's confession of faith, the lower the number of Americans who believe in God. Have we gone so far down this political road that we have lost sight of the real mission of the church?
I think it is time we Christians move into damage control for our own campaign. Personally, I would opt for our ceasing to talk about God in such a way that seeks the benefit of either political party.
In the very least, we must learn to handle ourselves when our opinions differ. We are not each other's enemy.
Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.