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Our neighbor George recently commented that in this election year people seem to follow more closely the political party they support and its belief system more than they follow the teachings of Jesus.

That's a pretty radical thought, I responded. Maybe, he said, but take a look at the prayers that have come out of these political rallies. How often do you hear a candidate or his or her followers honestly ask God for guidance as they develop their platforms? Actually, their prayers assume that God is a democrat or a republican, or a conservative or a liberal. Apparently, somehow, God has already supported their cause and if we would simply follow suit everything would be fine and America would be great again!

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The youth group of my childhood had a motto, "Christ above all!" For us, that meant the life and teachings of Jesus should be a serious guide as to how we make decisions in daily life.

I remember a new neighbor putting the Christian flag at the top of his flag pole and the American flag right under it. He was criticized by several military veterans who said the American flag should always be at the top. He even received a reprimand from a local veteran's organization.

His response was that all too often nations have used religious faith, including the church, to support an agenda. The classic example is the rise of Nazism in the 1930s and how the church caved into supporting national policies that were totally against biblical teaching. It took the rise of the banned Confessing Church to speak out for what was right often at the risk of their own lives. Politicians seeking political office today have far too often used God to their own advantage or wrapped themselves in the flag, proclaiming "God bless America!" We need to realize that receiving a "God blessing" as America has received is not a one-way street. We have been blessed to be a blessing to others. What does it mean to you to be a blessing? In the New Testament, John writes the commandment that "those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also" (I John 4.21). How do you put "love" into action?

How does the teaching of our faith, the Holy Scriptures, or the life and teachings of Jesus guide us in what we support? My faith teaches me that we are called to build bridges — not walls. We are called to bring people together (even of different persuasions) not keep them apart. We are called to be "agents of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5.18). My faith teaches that we are called to support the environment, especially in providing clean water for everyone. We could go much further talking about health care for all as a "right" or concern for the poor that is more than words. To this list we could add a new and meaningful program to support the cities and the millions who live there, mental health issues, or a vital educational program especially for children and youth, regardless of the color of their skin or where they live.

My neighbor George responded by saying all of this sounds nice but how does the Christian community, for example, accept the responsibility to make these things happen?

For all of its talk about unity and "oneness in Christ Jesus" we must face the fact that the Christian faith is a very divided group. Maybe one thing going for it can be found in song: "We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord." Maybe we desire spiritual unity because we don't have much unity otherwise.

We disagree on issues such as homosexuality, care for the poor, ministry to migrants, health care for all, euthanasia, birth control and more. Maybe we will never agree on all of these issues and continue to promote "unity in diversity" as a Christian motto. But our disunity allows politicians to grab hold of these critical issues and twist them to their own advantage, even bringing a political God into the fray.

Our faith must remind us again and again that we are more than Republicans or Democrats, more than liberals or conservatives. We are the people of God!

Let the dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things!

The Rev. Dr. Wm. Louis "Lou" Piel is pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg and can be reached at julo1@verizon.net.

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