“There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than America.” (Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville) Jonathan Sacks, referencing Tocqueville, points out that Tocqueville was perplexed by the fact that Christianity held such potent influence, and “asked Americans to explain it to him”: They all essentially gave him the same answer. Religion in America (we are speaking of the early 1830s, remember) does not get involved in politics. He asked clergymen, why not. Again they were unanimous in their answer. Politics is divisive. Therefore if religion were to become involved in politics, it too would be divisive. That is why religion stayed away from party political issues. (Essays in Ethics: A Weekly Reading
in the Jewish Bible Jonathan Sacks).
In that respect a lot has changed in America. I argue that if religionists, specifically those of Christian persuasion, became less vociferously vocal in the political sphere there would indeed be less divisiveness in the US political process. For that matter I speculate that were Christians to be pressed about their moral positions (and social media forums have demonstrated sentiments in support of the hypothesis) the animosities, animated irritations and deep-seated dislike towards those of differing doctrinal persuasion, it might, on the charge of ‘all honesty,’ likely lead to another American (un)Civil War; sectarian war not unlike Muslim sects in the mideast.
No one, to my knowledge, has come forward with research that identifies hard and fast delineations between fundamentalists and evangelicals and traditional mainstream Catholic and Protestant denominations; did voters vote along their denominational lines or break ranks with others within their congregations? Given my church experience I find it difficult to picture parishioners / church members sitting peaceful and tolerant of internal congregational conflict, Trump and non-Trump voters congregating together, without deep distrust or outright rancor. Why would they? Why would they not? Is this not, then, the problem in our churches, listening, or rather, not listening?
Mark Nepo writes of the pathetic reality and its resolution: “Deep listening requires letting go of our internal argument with the world. Before we can truly listen, we must exhaust ourselves of our assumptions. In truth, if we are to ever glimpse the world outside the stubborn certainty of our minds, we have to put down our ready answer to everything. This necessitates an inner discipline so that I don’t finish your sentence in my mind, or search my storehouse of opinions for a rebuttal or defense of the world as I see it. Letting go of my internal argument with the world means not pushing off of everything that comes my way. It requires my looking at you as a sudden fish that has surfaced from the deep. It requires bringing you water rather than my judgments. Every time we speak, we have to discern: are we speaking honestly or just barking from our wall into all we are afraid of? And every time we receive, are we actually hearing the truth of another or are we preparing the next argument like a brick to strengthen our wall? We often wear so many opinions that wonder has very little chance of touching our skin. We all struggle with this. Yet the courage to be begins with the risk to let that instant of unknowing grow between what is said to us and our reflex to ready our response. Much of our isolation and sense of difference comes from our inability to slow down and let in what is before us. Regardless of the medium, this is the beginning of art, the honest listening, without pretense or judgment, to life as it meets us. Listening is not reacting or responding but meeting experience openly, the way a lake is filled by streams.” (Mark Nepo Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred)