Two years ago, on the eve of the 2008 presidential election, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that the reason to stay in communion with those with whom we disagree is to leave open the possibility of conversion. Not a conversion in which one’s political opponents see the error of their ways in a flash as the scales fall from their eyes, but the far greater and more elusive possibility of a conversion that compels us to see our opponents as human beings, worthy of respect and possessing God-given dignity.
If we can steady ourselves to endure it, this conversion could be at hand, in which we recognize liberals and conservatives, Tea Partiers and socialists, libertarians and every one else, as fellow children of God with hopes and fears and failings similar to our own. Here at Washington National Cathedral, we saw evidence of its possibility last month at the 2010 Nancy and Paul Ignatius Program, in which David Axelrod, Joshua Bolten, and Senator Susan Collins came together to discuss how to restore civility to our common life. None too soon, the Ignatius Program launched a yearlong Cathedral-sponsored discussion about civility and purposeful discourse in politics.
I’ve seen many posts today that say the Republicans should not be so willing to work with Democrats. I don’t think that is what is needed at this time. One of the issues that came out during this election cycle was voter discontent concerning the lack of bipartisanship in politics. That is a valid concern and probably the one reason why I find myself associating with the Coffee Party more than the Democratic Party. I urge both political and religious conservatives and liberals to find ways to work together, to keep the conversation going.