The Declaration of Independence openly states that all people are created equal and “endowed by their Creator” with inalienable rights.
The Founding Fathers were not foolish enough to specify which deity or creator was responsible for this. It was enough to pronounce that there was something bigger than each of us that had a hand in enabling and empowering us with these rights. The idea is that in our great melting pot of a nation, no matter which faith you subscribe to, we are all equally beneficial to and benefiting from each other through this Declaration and its subsequent nation.
From the outset of this pandemic, we have been quick to affirm, “We are all in this together,” while also nearly immediately devolving into camps of maskers vs non-maskers. This is only a microcosm of a far bigger problem that has been growing worse for decades through past elections, national tragedies, housing, and economic crises, and more, and only exacerbated by the rise of social media (check out “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix). Tribalism, loyalty to one’s own group, has been increasing as a sense of unity and diplomacy has been degenerating. The problem with this is that we were founded on some idea of a God-given unity.
I happen to be a Christian and love the Bible as a holy text. One of the key ideas in Christianity is to take seriously Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Rather than ignoring the wounded person on the side of the road for any reason, each person is implored to help to a generous extent those who are less fortunate than us. We are to love our neighbor. What I find fascinating is that in multiple places in each of the Hebrew Scriptures (Leviticus 19:18 and more), in the New Testament (Mark 12:31 and more), in the Quran (4:36 and more), and also in religious texts of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, and more, this verbatim idea is repeated time and again across all of the major world belief systems. Love your neighbor.
Regardless of what and how you believe, this Creator that the founding fathers acknowledged has spoken this same idea across all belief systems. Love your neighbor.
As the election season heats up it lays bare the disparities and differences that have been simmering and coming to a boil for years. It shows up in smaller, aforementioned ways about beliefs on the pandemic, but it shows up in more visceral ways in violent movements at both far ends of the political spectrum. Lest we think we non-violent adherents are any less to blame, though, we must remember that not all wounds are physical. As we divide ourselves along Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green party members or as well-intentioned non-party members, we must remember none of these things truly divide us unless we let them. We are Americans – all of us. In religion, politics, beliefs about science and research, and more – love your neighbor.
Because we are united under a Declaration of Independence, under this concept of inalienable rights by a Creator, and because loving one’s neighbor seems to be a universal truth across all belief systems, we are together and must be willing to fight for each other rather than against. We must help each other through this season and these struggles and see past such trivial, tribal divisions because we are ALL Americans and neighbors. Each of us are neighbors in this community, state, and nation. Our neighbors are not our enemies.
Rev. Jeffrey A Brady is the planter and pastor at Commoners House Church in Marion, IN.