Respect for those who differ

One of the things I’ve noticed about our new President is the respect he shows for those who differ from him.  In his campaign, he seemed to have avoided much of the name-calling and slurs against his opponents.  In his presidency, he is causing shock waves by inviting members of the opposing party to join his Cabinet, and gives indication he is willing to listen to ideas from all sources.  By most accounts, it’s something more than political posturing.

His expressions of faith seem to embrace those who differ, as well.

I was not raised in a particularly religious household.  I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known.  She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.

His home-schooling in the Golden Rule comes through loud and clear.  At this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast, Mr. Obama showed respect for other major faiths, and even–as he did in his Inauguration speech–for those with no faith at all.

We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

By “humanists”, he’s referring to non-believers.  In his morning speech he continued to talk about differences and commonalities among those with–and without–faith.

There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next — and some subscribe to no faith at all.

I can’t recall any previous President acknowledging or including in a positive way those without faith.

One of the things I appreciate most about the United Church of Christ is its inclusion of differing opinions and beliefs, and recognition that believers and non-believers are all children of God.  The welcoming liturgy we share with new members includes this statement:

We give thanks for every community of faith which has been your spiritual home, and we celebrate your presence in this household of faith.

It’s not an “us v. them” statement; it’s an “us and them” credo.  It touched me deeply when I joined the UCC a few years ago.  It was an acknowledgement of my faith journey that made me feel very welcomed at the table.  I didn’t have to renounce my past, or stifle my differing beliefs, or “drink the Kool-Aid”.  If I had had no faith background at all, I would be welcome.

Because Christ’s love is never earned and freely given, I feel called to share that same openness and acceptance with others through the church.   I’m glad we have a President who is willing to be open and accepting in ways that may transform government.  People of all beliefs and no beliefs need respect.  Our society will be better–the Church will be stronger–when we learn to show it.

About Ron Dauphin

Photographer, writer, proud dad, and UCC pastor.
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