Lance Ralston| Calvary Chapel In Oxnard
I would like to make a suggestion. Let me lead up to it.
I am a member of an Interfaith Council originally called together by then-Oxnard Police Chief, Scott Whitney. In a desire to forge healthy relations between law enforcement and the faith communities of the city, Chief Whitney gathered the leaders of a few religious groups. We quipped in our first meeting it sounded like the beginning of a joke. “A Priest, Rabbi, and Pastor walked into a Police Station.” When we first met, we did not know each other. Now, over two years later, we have gotten to know one another if not well, at least beyond a casual acquaintance.
Last Summer, in the height of the civil unrest sweeping the nation, we issued a joint statement of unity and in support of local law enforcement. While many communities were at odds with their police departments, we found the efforts of the Oxnard Police Department to build bridges with the community to be healthy and welcome.
The Statement identified that as members of the Interfaith Council, we came from different faith traditions, some of which varied widely from each other. These beliefs are not trivial to us. We believe they are issues of vital, even eternal, importance. But as residents of our fair City, we are called to live in community, showing respect for one another while disagreeing on things we believe to be of great significance. Indeed, the entire experiment of civilization requires people to agree to disagree, agreeably.
Here is the point. We have been able to do that on the Interfaith Council because we have had a chance to get to know one another. I now know people who hold different beliefs from mine. Before I knew them it was easy to regard such beliefs as errant and critique them mercilessly. I still regard such beliefs as error. But now that I know someone who holds them as a respected friend, I am careful in my attitude and the way my views are expressed when speaking about such things.
For our civil system to work, we have to live in community. That means making mutual respect for one another as human beings a standing policy. We do not all have to believe the same thing or hold the same views. But we must commit to deferring our differences to the realm of polite discussion while honoring one another as equally deserving of respect.
We can seek to persuade. The more certain we are our views are true, the greater the obligation to convince. But our commitment to live in community is what provides the basis for our city to flourish.
Society is fragmenting into disparate groups who refuse to respect each other. For some, hated and animosity are required because the “other side” is “evil, despicable.” If that trend grows, it spells the end of American civilization.
So, here is my suggestion, seriously consider engaging someone on the “other side” of whatever ideological divide you find yourself on, whether it be religious, political, ideological, whatever. Put a real person’s name and face to it. Make a friend of a would-be enemy.
Hey, if I can do it, you can.
Lance Ralston Is the Founding and Lead Pastor Calvary Chapel in Oxnard. He is the author of “The Place Of Faith In Shaping Political Views”.
2 Timothy 1:12