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Message from President Connell on Christian Discourse in Today’s Political World
Published: October 30, 2020
President Connell sent the following message to the ENC community on October 23, 2020:
Dear ENC Community:
You don’t need me to tell you that much of the political dialogue these days is ugly. I suggested at our academic convocation in August that this election season was shaping up to be a junior high food fight; I now fear that comment was unfair to junior high students. On a daily basis, we see candidates attacking one another, campaigns hurling insults at their foes, and supporters demonizing those on the other side. I have largely checked out of social media for the last couple months because I find myself regularly discouraged at the harshness and mean-spiritedness of the conversation. Even Christians seem to feel free to question the judgment, integrity, and sometimes the faithfulness of those on the other side of the political aisle – as though it’s patently obvious that God is a Democrat or a Republican. Maybe it’s always been this way to some extent, but it seems to me that the polarization of our culture is deeper, more toxic, and more threatening to the integrity of our social fabric than ever before.
With the presidential election less than a week away, I want to remind the ENC community that our calling as an intellectual community grounded in Christian faith is to model a different kind of political discourse. It’s OK to have deeply-held political opinions. It’s OK to discuss and debate those opinions in an effort to inform and persuade. It’s OK to disagree with one another in our assessment of candidates and policy. It’s even OK to disagree strongly. But it’s not OK to demean those with whom we disagree. It’s not OK to draw conclusions about why another person believes differently than we do without inquiring why they think the way they do. It’s not OK to claim that our unique perspective on political issues is uniquely inspired by God. It’s not OK to allow political agendas and partisan debates to damage people, destroy relationships, or fracture community.
The ENC community is a very special place, and I hope we can continue to embody all that is best about our community in the days leading up to and following the election. May our conversations always be characterized by humility, graciousness, patience, and gentleness. May we listen as least as much as we speak. May we remember that reasonable, well-informed, Christ-honoring people can come to different conclusions about important matters. And may we heed the words of the One who reminded us that the primary mark of his kingdom is love – even for those we might consider our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
In doing so, we can be responsible people who contribute meaningfully to the public good. We can fulfill our mission as an educational community, in which we learn to exchange ideas, evaluate the strength of arguments, consider different perspectives, and come to well-reasoned conclusions. We can model for a watching world a better way to live and a higher road to take. And we can be faithful to the Apostle Paul’s reminder that our ultimate citizenship is a heavenly one (Philippians 3:20), and so our ultimate loyalty belongs only to God – who will still be God regardless of who happens to win or lose on November 3rd.
Dr. Jack Connell
Eastern Nazarene College President