“In a political culture defined by fear and hate, for one side to be right, the other side has to be wrong. They become more than the opponent—they become the enemy. As this rhetoric level rises, we tend to forget what we’re fighting for, and only concentrate on who we’re fighting against.” Elliott Cennamo, winner of the Unitarian Universalist Association‘s Voting on the Side of Love Video Contest
I’m a big proponent of keeping religion out of politics; a firm believer in Thomas Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation.” But for better or worse, it’s there – religion is part and parcel of American politics, from the Democrats hasty move to include God in the party platform, to Billy Graham stumping for God on the Republican party platform and nearly every candidate’s asteriskian references to their seemingly monochromatic Christian faiths.
My chosen faith, Unitarian Universalism, acknowledges that sometimes inadvertent, sometimes purposely overt, but often intimate connection between religion and public life through a campaign called Standing on the Side of Love that seeks to influence public attitudes and public policy not along party lines, but along the lines of compassionate religious voices speaking out on the common ground of love and shared humanity. As a UU, as well as a writer working on a book about the Power of Love Notes, the idea resonates with me deeply.
While the campaign platform might be difficult for some people to get behind, the basic premise that love is the antidote to fear and hate is a solid one.
“Love, based not on some cynical partisan desire to find an edge, but coming from our hearts and our beliefs,” writes Cennamo.
“Love is not something you compromise, “he observes. ” Love is a gift from the almighty, and no loving god would give someone such a gift just to punish them for having it. Because it’s not just about having love, it’s about living love.
“Love, whether they were born on the same side of town, the wrong side of the tracks or the other side of the world. Love. Even if they might not look like us, pray like us, talk like us or love like us. Love is part of being human. And no one should be dehumanized just because of who they are.”
Idealistic? Maybe. But any less idealistic than thinking one candidate or another will make a pivotal difference on the basis of an equally idealistic party platform? They don’t make the difference. We do, when we step outside the rhetoric and into our shared humanity to make decisions based on common sense and compassion instead of hate and fear.