NEW YORK — Ten days after an attempted siege of the Capitol building, as tensions continue to run high across the country, Rev. Eugene Cho makes it clear: “The answer to a divided nation is not a divided church, and that’s what we’re seeing.”
“I think it’s a consistent dialogue we need to be having,” said Cho, president of Bread for the World. “That we’re not drinking the Kool Aid of our social media times, where everything feels so heightened and there’s such energy and vitriol and toxicity.”
Bread for the World is an organization that strives to end hunger. Cho is also the author of Thou Shalt Not be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics.
His comments were made during an online discussion Thursday organized by the Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life on how faith can guide the country through these turbulent times.
For Cho, the answer is in God’s call to love all people, not just those with whom we agree.
“When we’re called to love all people, we’re not just called to love those that look like me, think like me, feel like me, worship like me and I think we should even acknowledge those that would vote like me,” Cho said. “These are really, really challenging things to do, but following Jesus is a challenge.”
Barbara Williams Skinner, CEO of the Skinner Leadership Institute took Cho’s comments a step further. She said there’s more than a divide in the United States, there’s “a national identity crisis.”
“On the one hand, a white nation for white people agreed by interloping, advancement, engagement of non-white people. On the other hand, we have this notion about a nation under God. Unless we engage the truth about that gap, then I don’t know how we get back to courageous reconnection, or courageous building of bridges,” Skinner said.
“Every one of us has that decision to make. Will, I serve my political party, will I serve my Whiteness, my Blackness, my Asian, my Native American Culture? Will, I serve my money, my wealth, my other status, IDs, or will I serve God of all creation?”
Gerald Seib, executive Washington editor at the Washington Post said it’s also on the country’s leaders to make decisions that won’t further the divide.
“That is the task of leadership now. What people in Congress need to do is figure out ways to do some things together,” Seib said.
Others such as Kathleen Domingo, leader of the office of life, justice and peace in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, looks at the U.S. Bishops’ as non-political leaders that will play an important role in bringing people together. And she said it starts with how their relationship unfolds with President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden is a Catholic with pro-choice beliefs when it comes to abortion.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with a number of individual bishops, have spoken out against these views. A working group was created at this year’s annual bishops’ conference assembly to help navigate the relationship.
“One thing we can all agree on is the worst possible thing would be if the next four years President-elect Biden and the U.S. Bishops’ conference were at war … It’s time to implore him. Please, President-elect Biden, do not make abortion the center of your presidency,” Domingo said.
“We’re probably not going to change his mind on abortion. But if he doesn’t double down on that we can work together on the things that are so important to us.”
Rev. Adam Taylor, president of Sojourners said as the new administration takes over, it’s important people are honest about the decisions that are made.
“We need to engage (with the Biden Administration). We need to support and celebrate when they do things right, and we need to be willing and able to criticize when they fall short, or when they lack imagination, or when they don’t act on the courage of their convictions,” he said.
Domingo and Taylor, however, both emphasized it’s important for people to engage one another. Domingo emphasized that politics are not the end all be all, and that personal change is the first step in the right direction.
“We need an examination of consciousness. What have we individually done?” Domingo asked. If we’re asking our leaders to examine themselves and to make some changes, first we have to recognize that cultural change and cultural transformation starts with personal conversion.”
Taylor, for one, holds out hope that there’s a lot of Americans that want to work towards unity.
“I’m not naïve to believe that every American is going to unite around the exact same moral vision. But I do have the audacity to believe that recast, reimagined vision of the beloved community would actually unite the vast, vast majority of Americans,” he said.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg