In the first semester of my freshman year, I noticed one characteristic that was very present at EMU and the surrounding community — Politics.
Politics were everywhere. Of the six chapels I was required to attend, five were heavily focused on political issues. I do not have a problem with politics. In fact, I often find myself drawn to political issues. However, context needs to be taken into account when discussing politics. Where we are when we say things matters. We never know who will be listening and what their needs are.
I have not attended chapel on a day I was not asked to play music since the first semester of my freshman year.
In November of 2016, around the time Donald Trump was elected as our president, of all the churches I attended in the area, every sermon had something to say about Donald Trump and how his administration would ruin this country.
I do not go to church or chapel to hear pastors and speakers tear down our leaders and those who elected them. I go to church to learn how to use my faith to build bridges between us, to learn how to swallow my pride and close the gap politics have created in the church and its institutions.
Before you make assumptions of where I stand politically, please consider the idea that this is not at all a political opinion, but rather one of religion and faith. It is easy to bend our faith around our politics, and guilt is on both sides of the spectrum. I have heard some of the most terrible things said about those who are not as liberal-minded as some would like. I will not repeat these words.
On the contrary, I have heard the same from the opposite side. Why did Jesus eat with the tax collectors and associate with the prostitutes and the lepers? Many of us have heard of the Pharisees in the time of Jesus. The Pharisee is not always the closed-minded one reading the laws word for word. The Pharisee is the one who reads the law as if it were written by them. The Pharisees bend their faith around their agenda. Anyone can be the Pharisee who makes room in their life, their community, and their society for the tax collector, the prostitute, and the leper. As followers of Jesus, I believe we must bend our agenda around our faith.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to love and to serve. I have seen EMU love and serve those who are set apart, who are displaced and not cared for. We are also called to love those who hurt us. We are called to love and serve those we disagree with.
Why are we always set on our beliefs being superior? I am not saying we should rethink what we believe. We do, however, need to close the divides that politics have created in our faith. That is the only way we can bring peace within our communities, something we often struggle with and rarely deal with.
We treat people with dignity and respect no matter who they are, where they come from, or where they stand on the political spectrum. We do not do this because our politics say to. We do this because our faith says to. For such a politically and socially active campus, the spirituality feels thin. Politics will never save us.
We are not called to spread the message of politics and social justice. We are called to spread the message of Jesus through ways such as politics and social justice. What are our political and social motivations? The DNC? The GOP? Or Jesus? Our faith must resonate at the center of our lives.