“I am a Universalist,” says my friend the Reverend Mitra Jafarzadeh, “God loves everyone so I don’t have to.” Mind you she is using her I-am-off-duty voice when she says this sort of thing. Even so I suspect there is a part of us that can identify with this kind of theology in our more jaded moments.
Her words come to mind because I have been wrestling with the fact that I do not like the president-elect of the United States. My dislike is not even a partisan issue. I did not like him when he was a liberal Democrat. I do not like him as a conservative Republican. He’s been a part of pop culture since the 80’s so I’ve had plenty of time to form an opinion. To be honest, I have no idea what he will do as president. I might agree with some things. I might disagree with others. However, there is one thing I do know now – I really don’t like him.
If you are a Hillary hater then you may have the same problem but from a different vantage point. When we disagree with an elected leader’s policies it is a political issue. When we do not like a person it is a spiritual issue. So spiritually speaking, we all have a lot of work to do before love will ever trump hate. I am a minister so I don’t endorse or opposed any political candidate. This is not because such an action would jeopardize my congregation’s tax-exempt status (which it would) but because I think it makes for “bad church.” We live in a technological society where each one of us can get a never-ending stream of polarized sanctimony 24/7. From this barrage of vitriol we all need sanctuary.
Honesty is the first step toward spiritual growth. A cup that is clean on the outside but dirty on the inside is of little use to anyone. The work of the spirit is inner work. It must come from the inside out. We may not like the work. We might prefer another job entirely. However, this is the work we must do if we ever hope to become vessels of living water for a world where so many thirst for justice, meaning and purpose.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He did not say, “Don’t have any enemies.” I could make a laundry list of social justice issues that will inevitably put me into conflict with the powers-that-be at any given moment in history. However, the spiritual challenge for me is to do this work in ways that will make me a better person and not just a bitter person.
I could also make a long list of things I don’t like about our president elect. However, that would put the focus on him when right now I am the one who needs to do some soul work. Occasionally every minister needs to hear the words, “Physician heal thyself.”
I don’t think that you have to believe in God in order to be a good person. However, periodically I find it comforting to delegate to God those tasks I personally find humanly impossible. It keeps me humble and reminds me that I am only human. I also know that when I dislike anyone it always hurts me and rarely if ever hurts anyone else. Animosity can knock me off course when I would otherwise be sailing with the wind in a good direction. In my life I have many friends who belong to a variety of political parties-Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Independent, proudly apolitical etc. and that’s a good thing. One of the benefits of having such good friends in my life is that I know whenever there is someone I cannot love there is always someone else who can.
(This is a pastoral letter by the Reverend Chris Buice to his congregation the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church)