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Walking Our Faith: Old dog learns new tricks

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

For the record, I’m the old dog.

On Wednesday evening, I spent an hour and a half talking to my dear friend, Todd. We’ve known each other for over 40 years, and although he still lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, our mutual hometown, and I live in Breckenridge, we’ve kept in touch.

Todd and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, and the churches we attend are very different. He belongs to a 20,000 member evangelical megachurch, and I belong to a traditional Catholic parish.

But what we share in common is a deep love for Christ and our enjoyment of deep belly laughs.

Before I spoke with Todd, I joined my Wednesday night Bible group on Zoom for our final Bible study hosted by Father Emmanuel, who has shepherded us for the past two years and now will be moving down to Boulder in July.

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I asked Father Emmanuel, as we studied the sixth chapter of Galatians, how we should reconcile our differences when we don’t agree with somebody else’s politics. Father Emmanuel quickly laughed and said, we don’t discuss politics here, Suzanne.

But because Father Emmanuel is much wiser than I am or will ever be, he reminded me that because we believe in the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, we know each member of the Trinity is equal and the perfect example of diversity. Each part of the Trinity expresses God’s love for us in a unique and essential way: God our creator, Jesus our savior, the Holy Spirit our consoler.

I told Todd about the column I wrote last week. He reminded me, in his gentle way, that we are all at different places on our spiritual walk and none of us knows where the other is because a relationship with God is by its very nature intimate and private.

One of the comments I received for last week’s column was simply, “Matthew 7:1-5.” To which I replied, “Matthew 7:7-15”

The first Bible reference is to a sermon in which Jesus warns us not to judge one another, unless we are ready to be judged ourselves. And my response refers to the same sermon in which Jesus says, by your fruits you will be known.

Here’s the thing, both of us are right. And I imagine we both come from places of sincere belief.

But I believe we both missed the point, and I see this happening a lot when one group uses religious beliefs to claim a moral high ground over another group. This is, of course, as old as the Pharisees versus the Sadducees or as contemporary as Democrats versus Republicans.

And I think that’s exactly the point Father Emmanuel was making during our Bible study. And similarly the point Todd was making during our phone conversation.

Whether I am a Democrat or a Republican does not make me more devout nor does it cause God to love me more or less. In fact, I’m certain that God prefers I keep his holy name out of politics altogether.

And not just me, but also every religious leader who endorses one political leader over another and tells their followers that God doesn’t approve of the other candidate or their followers.

Here’s the truth I find in teachings of Jesus Christ: We are all loved just as we are, sinners all of us, imperfect and trying so hard to hide it. We find it easier to point out faults than to follow Christ’s commandment that we love one another.

I believe Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Franklin Graham both love Jesus Christ with all their hearts, even though they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. And I believe that God loves them both just as much and just as they are.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to remember this, especially when we are convinced of our right-ness and convinced of their wrong-ness and when our differences overshadow what should be our common bond, which is not only our love for God but also God’s even greater love for us.

Father Emmanuel said something else that will stay with me: St. John Paul II recommended that when we meet people with whom we disagree, Christ’s love should shine so strongly through us that they are changed not by our persuasive words but by God’s overwhelming love seen through us.

That’s something I’ve got to work on. I think we all do. And that’s why this walk of faith is something that is never finished

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.


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