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In this political season, how can churches help us heal one another

I’m making less and less fun of Seattle when it snows.  I moved here four years ago in January and wasn’t here for a month when, on Martin Luther King Day, it was predicted there was going to be some snow; four inches of snow.  The news reports were practically suggesting people run for the bunkers and prepare for the apocalypse.  It was the leading story on the radio and one of the headlines in the newspaper.

Mike Denton

Mike Denton

Mind you, I’d just moved here from Chicago and had grown up in the Midwest.  It becomes news around there only when there hasn’t been a winter snow for a significant amount of time.  Seattle freaking out about four inches of snow was just weird.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of spinning tires throughout the neighborhood.  My apartment was right next to a fairly busy road on a hill.  I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat by the window.  From there I watched the surreal ballet of vehicles fish tailing their way up the hill until they started to slide back down backwards; cars slowly sliding down the hill with drivers still politely waving at other drivers when they missed hitting other cars by inches; a snow plow sliding through a red light.

My report back home was, of course, “These people have no idea how to drive in the snow.”  I mean, come on, it was four inches of snow.  The only places I went to, I walked to.  It was not safe to drive with these people.

Two years later, Lauren and I were driving home.  Yeah, we knew it was supposed to snow but we’d both moved from the Midwest.  Heck, she’s grown up in New England, even.  What was the big deal?

Then, well, there was this hill we, um, kinda got stuck on.  We were driving up just fine, at first, when our wheels started losing traction.  We started losing traction and sliding backwards.  It was one of “those” moments.  We looked at each other sheepishly with an embarrassed sense of recognition.  It might have been in that moment that we officially became Seattleites.

Context makes all the difference.  It’s one these lessons I need to seem to have to learn again and again and is sometimes blindingly true in church life. 

Although it’s not completely clear who said it first, one of the most used maxims for church life is the saying, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”  By charity, they’re not talking about something you give away, here.  Charity, during the time this was written, was understood more to be something like “love for other people.”

We’re entering in to a political season that looks as though it has the possibility of being the most brutal in recent memory.  Between the likely vote about gay marriage in Washington State, the presidential politics already being lobbed about, and the increased attention to class and income divides, this next year is going to be hard on all of us.  It’s going to be hard in some of our churches, too.

Context is no small thing.  Opinions don’t emerge in vacuums.  How can we best hear the stories of others’ opinions? 

As we move in to this difficult season, what might be some of those things we can do to help us prepare for it? 

What conversations might we have now to help us get ready for what’s coming later? 

What role might the church have in encouraging civil civic and religious discourse?

I’ll print some of your responses in my next column.  Please send your suggestions to: .

Transitions announced

Mark Boyd has been named the new manager of N-Sid-Sen, succeeding Randy Crowe who retires in April 2012.  Crowe will be honored at an event on April 14 at N-Sid-Sen.


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © February 2012


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