The announcement of Speaker Boehner's resignation this past week reminded us of the fragility of the political process, and for some of us who have been involved in politics over the years, it produced a little vertigo as well. I got to know Congressman Boehner in 1991 when the "Gang of Seven" House members would meet in then-Congressman Santorum's office on occasion, and he has been a point of reference ever since.Whether the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage or the insurgence of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, there is no question that the times, they are a changin'. This is disorienting for many of us. Bruce Jenner was the man. Donald Trump was the Donald. Bernie Sanders was on the fringe. What seemed certain and fixed are no longer so.
How to adjust to this new normal, how to respond with grace but not resignation, is a challenge for many of us. What is our vision for the common good when we can't assume that there is a shared vision for what is good?
Pope Francis, as disorienting as he is to many of my conservative Catholic friends, offers some guidance. Hold firmly on to what is deeply true, but embrace those with whom you differ. He didn't shy away from asserting the necessity of religious liberty when he was in Philadelphia, he affirmed the Church's position on the family, and when in Washington he spoke out for the disenfranchised and the poor. But what may have revealed the core of his heart most was his reflection at the 9/11 Memorial
"It is a source of great hope that in this place of sorrow and remembrance I can join with leaders representing the many religious traditions which enrich the life of this great city. I trust that our presence together will be a powerful sign of our shared desire to be a force for reconciliation, peace and justice in this community and throughout the world. For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace. In opposing every attempt to create a rigid uniformity, we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions, and lift our voices against everything which would stand in the way of such unity. Together we are called to say “no” to every attempt to impose uniformity and “yes” to a diversity accepted and reconciled.
This can only happen if we uproot from our hearts all feelings of hatred, vengeance and resentment. We know that that is only possible as a gift from heaven. Here, in this place of remembrance, I would ask everyone together, each in his or her own way, to spend a moment in silence and prayer. Let us implore from on high the gift of commitment to the cause of peace. Peace in our homes, our families, our schools and our communities. Peace in all those places where war never seems to end. Peace for those faces which have known nothing but pain. Peace throughout this world which God has given us as the home of all and a home for all. Simply peace."
Can we be FOR people that we fundamentally disagree with? Can we truly "love our enemies" as Jesus commands us to? In reflecting over this, and the vertigo that change can bring about, I was reminded of a recent music video
xWe reject the either or They can’t define us anymore Cause if it’s us or them It’s us for them It’s us for them
-Gungor, Us for Them, 2015
I was reminded while at the Values Voter conference last week that adopting a new paradigm for a new time can be difficult. The culture is changing; can our modality for engaging it change as well? It can, if we can keep our eyes fixed ahead, for some things will never change. As U2 sang live in concert for the first time in 26 years in New York City this July:
And the trees are stripped bareOf all they wearWhat do I careOctoberAnd kingdoms riseAnd kingdoms fallBut you go on...and on...-U2, October, 1981