One of the challenges of being the leader of a diverse group of people (like the U.S. or a United Methodist church) is to remember that we are given the privilege of leading ALL people, not just the ones that we agree with or who like us. To that end it is vital that public communications reflect that realization. As a pastor, I may or may not agree with one person or group’s vision, but I don’t feel like I can champion my opinion (and therefore the group that I agree with) over other well-grounded, faithfully held opinions. It’s not an easy balancing act to achieve, and nobody does it perfectly, but my hope is that everyone feels like they can approach me with their thoughts and pastoral needs without feeling as though my personal opinion will prevent me from hearing them.
This issue is buzzing around in my mind due to the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, VA, a few days ago. The United States is diverse and the citizens of our nation have a huge variety of thoughts, viewpoints, and opinions. According to our Constitution, each of us is allowed (even encouraged at times) to air those thoughts, viewpoints, and opinions. Thus we have rallies, demonstrations, marches, etc … to express our particular point of view.
Unfortunately, the current occupant of the White House seems to care only for those who agree with and support his rhetoric. His statements ignore the vast majority of Americans and our thoughts, hopes, and dreams. So, in the absence of a statement worthy of a leader of a diverse and equally valued group, I want to play POTUS for a moment and issue the kind of statement that I think he should have made:
“The United States has, from its inception, honored and respected the views of all of our citizens. To that end, the demonstrations in Charlottesville represent something positive about our nation – we do not silence those we disagree with. However, the violence that erupted and the injuries and loss of life that resulted cannot, and will not, be tolerated. I personally do not agree with the viewpoints expressed during the demonstration. I find them repulsive and repugnant and, in my opinion, they represent the opposite of what America strives to become. As long as they are expressed peacefully, I will defend their right to do so. However, when any viewpoint results in violence, abuse, discrimination, or vandalism it must be met with quick and decisive action to make it plain that such behavior will not, under any circumstances, be tolerated.”
Jesus died for ALL people. He recognized and valued EVERYONE equally. Maybe our nation’s current leader should take note of that fact … because, unlike what we’re witnessing in our nation, Jesus changed the world for the better.