To: The President, Senators, and Representatives Who Share My Christian Faith
I firmly believe in the separation of church and state. But I do believe that one’s faith, whatever that may be, should inform one’s thinking and actions. Because Christians hold a super-majority in both houses of Congress—a majority greater than either political party holds—one might expect that our leaders should be working together more than they do.
Instead, for much of my lifetime, you have sought to undermine the other party with actions that look nothing like the example that Christ set for us. Of course, Christians have always disagreed, and many of the epistles are letters to early churches engaged in discord that threatened the very existence of Christianity.
In a similar way the dysfunction in Washington threatens the very existence of our democracy—the only country in the world that has managed to bring together people from nearly every culture in the world. We have such powerful potential, but that potential is blighted by your inability to work together toward a shared vision for a better America.
If your faith were truly informing your work, it seems to me that you should be able to find more common ground. So I have a challenge for you:
Would you commit to reading the Common Lectionary Gospel reading to begin each day of your term in office and consider how Christ’s values and actions in the reading might inform the work you are about to do for the day?
For those of you who are not familiar with the Common Lectionary, it began in the mid-1960s as an effort by Catholic and Protestant liturgical scholars to devise a common set of readings that would be used by a number of Christian denominations in the United States and Canada during worship services. In 2005 the scholars came together again to publish daily readings that related to the liturgy used in Sunday worship.
The daily Gospel readings are short and would take no more than two or three minutes of your time to read. But I wonder what impact it would have on your ability to work together if you prayerfully considered at the beginning of your day how you could best live the example that Christ set for us and if you thought about that reading during the day as you deal with the difficult issues that face us as a nation.
What if, when you find yourselves on opposite sides of an issue, you think of how the values Christ modeled might inform the way you face the issue and relate to your colleagues? And what might happen if you remind yourselves, as the writers of the epistles reminded the early Christians about the Church, that the survival of democracy depends on your ability to move beyond your differences to find a common vision?
I know that most of your constituents write to you to ask that you take action that agrees with their stance on issues if you wish to retain their support. As a fellow Christian, I ask not for that. I ask only that you read the Gospel, walk humbly in your faith, and try to find common ground with your colleagues.
I fear what will happen if you continue to place party loyalty above all else when you vote on the issues that have plagued us for so long, under administrations both Republican and Democrat. But I trust the power of our shared faith enough to believe that it has the potential to bring you together for what is right and good for all of us.
As the research of the Pew Foundation tells us every year, our young people are leaving the church in droves because they see only hypocrisy in so many Christians—and particularly those in our country’s leadership whose voices are the loudest.
If you cannot find a way to return to truly Christian values, you may find yourselves culpable not only in the failure of American democracy but in the demise of the Christian Church. And how will you answer for that?
So I challenge you to begin anew in this new administration to think of how you can be Christlike. It is a worthy goal for all Christians, but especially for those of you who have been given the voice of the people.