Dorhauer: The content of our character
United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John C. Dorhauer issues a call for a return to common decency in a message to mark the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
I have always believed as a person of faith and a minister of the gospel that to be a follower of Jesus is to lead with love. As we remember the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., I reflect on his belief that people should be judged by the content of their character.
I am weary of the discourse in our society and among our elected leaders and feel concerned about what it says about the content of our character. I am weary of our President fueling our worst impulses by regularly degrading, dehumanizing, and disparaging our fellow citizens, cities and entire countries, continents, and religions.
Like the clergy to whom Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail was addressed, too many of us remain silent and do nothing even as Jesus calls us to lead with love. Reasons for our silence are many: fear of offending supporters and members, reluctance to cross the line between religion and politics, belief in the President and his policy agenda, and respect for the office.
But, shouldn’t the President and all US leaders be judged by the content of their character?
As an authorized member of the clergy, I believe It is time to find common ground on one thing: calling the country, our elected representatives, ourselves, and our President to higher standards of decency.
I believe that followers of Jesus can agree on the following:
No US leaders should for any reason call for violence, overtly or sarcastically, at public rallies, press appearances, or via social media. Postulating that torch-bearing neo-Nazis have as much good on their side as those who demonstrate peacefully against racism is unacceptable.
No US leader should call political opponents by derogatory names and hurl insults at them that seek to degrade them by body type, physical appearance, or intellect.
No US leader should authorize pulling children away from their mothers and fathers and locking them in cages without proper food, sanitation, or clothing, and with no record of the family unit or plan for reunification.
No US leader should sidle up to dictators and potentates or seek to delegitimize long-standing allies.
No US leader should ask Americans who do not look like them to go back from where they came.
We know this is unacceptable. We know this is a sea change in expected norms of decency from the highest offices in the land. We know that mass shootings and hate crimes are on the rise. We know that hate speech is increasingly finding a home in the mainstream. We must not become desensitized to this and let it become “normal.”
Are we, good people with good hearts, followers of Jesus, remaining silent? I don’t recognize a Christianity that is willing to tolerate this.
I call for Christian progressive, moderates, and conservatives to unite for decency. I invite us all into a shared commitment to respectfully honor our differences, love our neighbors, and begin right now to reflect on the content of our own character.
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