People of faith sometimes ask a prospective adherent: “Do you believe in God?”
What does that question prove about a person’s commitment if they aren’t sure what they believe in?
What does it mean if they say they believe but in a way that is different from the way we traditionally conceive our religious teachings?
I hear a lot of people say they believe in God but I’m not sure what the word ‘believe’ really means? When I’m in this kind of conversation, I’ll ask respectfully “If you do not believe in God, then what do you believe in?”
Are we living in an era when many folks just aren’t sure about what they believe? We appear to be polarized on so many different levels in our society. It is not just about our politics. Our faith is in question, too. We talk about enemies that threaten our security such as cyber warfare, nations who use social media to sew division in our society, and terrorists who carry out wanton acts of violence against our citizens. Is it surprising that a segment of our nation has become angry and cynical? As much as we sabre-rattle regarding possible threats to our national security, the greatest threat is self hated. That is just as dangerous a weapon and as great a security threat to the nation as any foreign aggressor.
We have armed forces to defend us but we the people are ultimately responsible for our security. It is the breakdown of fundamental values that makes us the most vulnerable.
In ancient times, after the Romans conquered Judea, the sages of the time started at the rubble of a decimated Jerusalem and its Holy Temple and saw that the root cause of this national catastrophe was based upon baseless hatred among the citizens themselves.
The internal dissension in ancient Judea was about several issues.
One was the conflict of identity in which different groups debated and even fought one another over who was the Messiah.
Other Jewish groups were nationalists whose main aim was to fight the Romans.
Still other clergy factions, representing the Sadducees and the Pharisees, had a completely different world views on theology and on the question of whether to work with the Roman overlords who occupied Judea.
This is one example from history but the lesson is the same for all generations. When a nation’s people are so divided, a nation can send an unmistakable message of weakness which can open the doors to foreign aggressors.
The apparent success of those responsible for manipulating recent American elections through social media came because we are not unified as a people.
On Hilton Head, the mayor’s race is heating up and we are facing the same questions of whether we are united by share values.
Will baseless hatred play a role in helping two of our mayoral candidates exploit this community’s spiritual and moral character?
We are electing a mayor who is, in effect, a symbolic exemplar representing the spirit of Hilton Head. The danger here is not just about what insane and obscene comments the two candidates made about Adolph Hitler or about the Holocaust.
No community that is unified on shared values of mutual respect could give credence to their scurrilous and indecent comments. If we are a truly united community in terms of believing that our citizens are cherished and that we accept the responsibility to work for the common good, then we will never fall prey to demagoguery and careless statements which aim to hurt us and to weaken our resolve to make Hilton Head an exemplary community, impervious to the darkness of division.
Hilton Head deserves better than mayoral candidates who antagonize and distract our moral compass.
My prayer is that if there is anything we can believe in it is the principle that community itself is sacred and that faith in God should lead us to faith in man.
Hate speech only leads to baseless hatred which tears apart the moral fabric of our community.