Two years ago, October 2020, my daughter-in-law and her nine-year-old daughter went trick or treating in their neighborhood. My granddaughter was proudly dressed as a mummy. It was just before the general elections. They went to every home on their street. Near the end of their block, they arrived at a home that had a “Vote for THIS GUY for president” sign in the yard. My granddaughter’s bag had space for a few more goodies so she tugged on her mother’s arm to knock on the door of that house. My daughter-in-law however, pulled back refusing to approach the home. In telling me of the incident later, she explained how an emotion of fear and discomfort welled up in her at seeing the sign. She paused, turned around and went home, explaining to my sad granddaughter that it was late, and she had school the next day.
My daughter-in-law, a practicing Christian, leans more to one side than the other on politics and social issues. And believe it or not, there are practicing Christians leaning both ways in this country. And some have a hearty mix of viewpoints – liberal on this issue, conservative on that.
Afterwards, my daughter-in-law pondered, “Was that the right thing to do, not approaching that home? Am I part of the problem in this country, harboring such prejudice for others who don’t think like me?”
This true Halloween story illustrates to a great extent where we are in this land of the brave and the free. It’s one thing to make your voice heard with your vote, but another to not approach a neighbor who thinks and votes differently. Are the residents of certain houses not created by God as all humans are? Even those who have an irritating political sign on their lawn? Some social media today implore us to treat The Other as the enemy.
N.Y. Times writer, Jonah Goldberg puts it this way. “Americans have been self-sorting for a long time. We tend to live among people who see the world the way we do, and therefore we have a difficult time understanding how anybody could see the world differently.” Goldberg noted that in a Pew Research Center study, almost 80% of partisan respondents reported having few or no friends of the opposite camp. Organized religion as a binding force in our culture is losing influence. Politics and various “isms” are filling the void, even for those who identify as religious.
And social media and politically aligned TV stations are doing their part. After all, brains of a feather flock together.
There’s an old saying, attributed to the Sioux: A people without history is like wind on the buffalo grass. What may be worse than a people without history, are people without heart, unable to see half their countrymen and countrywomen as anything but the enemy.
Let’s get back to Halloween. Imagine, just for the fun of it, a different scenario. What if Jesus was walking hand in hand with my granddaughter on that Halloween? Would he have noticed the campaign sign? If he had noticed it, would he have hesitated to ring the doorbell of that house? Would he have noticed the condition of the home, the fancy decorations or lack thereof, or the color of the resident’s skin? In Jesus’ era, the comparable home might have been that of a pagan Greek, a Roman soldier, a Pharisee, or a Samaritan. I’m betting Jesus would have looked straight into the resident’s eyes with love and blessed the home with his peace. Oh, and thanked him or her for the treat.
St. Mark writes that no other commandment is greater than putting God first in your life and loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). Surely this would include a neighbor down the street with a political sign in the yard that makes you cringe.