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Sunday Reflections: Thoughts Before the Presidential Candidates’ Debate

The debate didn't stop with the two presidential contenders last Wednesday. It is still going on between Americans.

By Rev. Susan C. Schwartz

As I write this tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 3), the two presidential candidates are debating one another in front of the country and, well, probably the whole world. Soon after all ends, the analysts will begin telling us who won and who lost and why and who will need to do what in the next round.

Tomorrow the analysts will stand at the water coolers debating what was said in the debates. For good or for ill this has been a long standing tradition in American politics. As we continue the debates in our own lives I share a few thoughts.

No one political party is God’s answer to prayer.God is no more a Democrat than he (sic) is a Republican. I dare not, we dare not, suggest otherwise. Now we might find that one particular party represents more closely our convictions and what we believe is God’s will, but another person of faith and conviction may see things differently.

It is important that we be willing to honor both points of view. We can even have honest and intense conversations, but always, always, honoring the viewpoint and the faith of the other person. 

Secondly, it is important that we stay clear of the bottom level of the fray. It is important that we honor each other’s political persuasions and treat one another respectfully.

And for Pete’s sake, we need to steer away from the name calling and the stereotypes. No, Republicans are not all rich, racist, homophobic, mean-spirited, greedy, selfish and intolerant. They are not all brain-dead. I can tell you that because I know some Republicans. And Democrats are not all anti-business, anti-rich, gay, intellectual, atheistic, namby-pamby, socialist, liars. I can tell you that because I know some Democrats. 

Thirdly, don’t assume that everyone else’s point of view is the same as yours. Be very careful in what you say to others, especially if you don’t really know their political opinions. It is easy to make comments or jokes, assuming that others have the same basic political philosophy.

To be a little tongue in cheek here: Yes, of course, each of us has our own opinions which “we know” is right for us and everybody else, but everyone else does not know that we have the one “right” opinion. They might have their own! And we dare not assume that their opinion is the same as ours (even though ours is the right one!)

Maybe most importantly. This is an election year, and it is our duty to take that seriously, but we must always do that in a way that respects those around us. Those who call Jesus Lord are called to relate to each other with care and compassion, even when we talk politics.

The Rev. Susan Schwartz is pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Swissvale and Hope Lutheran Church in Forest Hills.

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