As a onetime political science major and antiwar activist, I find myself devouring political coverage, especially of the already-bizarre 2012 presidential campaign. I find it fascinating, even when it’s appalling.

But I am trying something else, as well, something much harder than simply forming an opinion about this issue or that candidate. That is to think as a person of faith. Not seeking to slap a “Christian” label on any politician or viewpoint, but to ask what a person of faith should be doing in these divisive times.

What would help to heal, to reconcile, to lay a foundation for tomorrow after today has been made toxic by the hyper-partisan?

I find this tough going because it inevitably involves digging deep for self-restraint, perspective, a willingness to listen. It means rising above the idol known as right-opinion. It means honoring the other even when the other is trashing what I hold dear.


Q: Has the church during the last 2,000 years failed in teaching the true meaning of Christ? If so, why?

A: First, I don’t think there is any single entity called “the church.” There are millions of Christians, some of whom belong to congregations and denominations. There is a Christian movement, splintered into many parts. There is something that God evidently intends to do – a Christian enterprise, if you will – in which we are invited to participate, and sometimes we do.

Second, I doubt it is within our power to grasp “the true meaning of Christ.” We glimpse pieces of who Jesus was and what he said and did. We glimpse pieces of what God desires us to experience of Jesus today. I doubt any of us gets it all. Anybody who claims to know the one true meaning of Jesus Christ is deluded.

Third, human history suggests that even our best glimpses often fade from view and must be found again. We forget, we lapse, we get distracted by the things of this world, we yield to the darkness, we get scared. Has religion failed us, or have we failed God? Probably both. Will we ever get it right forever and always? Probably not. Later, when we meet God face to face, we will grasp what we failed to see along the road.

Photo: Union Square, New York City, longtime gathering place for political talk.