The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 1:00 am

Truth, compassion must bind us

Gary Erdos

The events of Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., left many shocked, concerned or horrified. Yet a number of us, reflecting on these events, were less shocked.

Political conversation has for quite some time been leading up to what happened on that day. Many of us expressed our concern and dismay with a great deal of energy. A deeper question should be, “Now what?”

It's important to remember that all political leaders, like all of us, are mixtures of good and evil. We often support these politicians with a great number of reservations.

Our relationship with them is transactional. We support them because we recognize problems that need solutions. But when we forget the flawed humanity of these leaders, it becomes easy for us to tilt toward what we call in my business idolatry.

Idolatry easily erases in our minds the flaws and creates false gods and false loyalties. Historically, this idolatry creates a toxic brew with disastrous consequences, as we have experienced these past several years and recent days.

Many diagnose the problem with the nation's politics and community as politics itself. Christians have a more nuanced view toward power, politics and community.

We understand from St. Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther and Jesus himself that authority, properly exercised, is a blessing to a community. And, if politics is the art of living together in community, Jesus has quite a bit to say about what that looks like.

In the church's long understanding, this takes two specific things: a commitment to truth and a commitment to care for the weak, the vulnerable and the poor.

We can speak at some length about truth, but for this moment, suffice it to say that at its simplest, truth should adhere to some solid, verifiable facts. My opinions, hopes and feelings don't qualify as facts. We all expect politicians, and occasionally the people close to us, not to always tell us the truth. But when we willingly receive lies and falsehoods, the ones who become most deformed and dehumanized are ourselves.

There is a little Bible story about this; you can find it in Genesis 3. Human willingness to believe a lie is nothing new; it's one of our oldest stories. That long history, however, doesn't lessen the consequences of doing so.

This is why our concern for the care of the weak, vulnerable and poor among us matters so much. There is no doubt that this was a priority for Jesus not only because it is right, but also because it is a gateway into our hearts.

When we are willing to tolerate the exploitation and abuse of the weak and vulnerable, what higher good could we possibly be after? Likely only a lowly, self-serving one. This never bodes well for a civil society.

The United States has profound political, economic and social problems. Few, if any, doubt this. But our ability to address these in any way that seeks the common good will depend on trust. Trust in leaders who can speak the truth even when that truth is challenging to their position. And trust in one another, that we're not all playing some sort of zero-sum game, making desperate deals with the devil for our own gain.

But all of this is not just something we need to think about.

It's something we need to commit ourselves to the hard work of doing.

Seeking the truth and showing mercy to our neighbor takes dedication and serious work. St Ignatius of Loyola said, “Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” While this has always been true, it may never be more important than now and in the days to come.

The Rev. Gary Erdos is the senior pastor at Trinity English Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne.

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