"Come, let us argue?"

Well, it has certainly been an eventful week on the national scene: A presidential farewell, a presidential inauguration, a march of protest and solidarity. The one thing that all of these events have in common for me is that I know people who were more, or less, happy with each event. And all of those people claim the same religious tradition as do I. So I made that the focus of my weekly student Bible study: how do people of faith talk to one another when emotions run very high and disagreements are very hard-fought? At the end of the hour, none of us had a solution, but we did remember a Bible verse that most of us learned as children: "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord." Isaiah 1:18. It is interesting to note that the New Revised Standard Version renders that passage as "Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord." Wait, did Isaiah just give us permission to argue? And here, we religious folk have been arguing all of these years thinking we were being naughty! Well, to argue means to express sincere opinions and to present one's view, even if it is in disagreement with those also involved in the conversation. The students in the Bible study felt that, as Christians , they are bound to express their views, even when said views may make them unpopular. But they also insisted that we must not judge those with whom we disagree. May I say how difficult that has been for me to do in the past week. Every headline seems to contain another outrageous fact, or "alternate fact." My first impulse is to yell, to give vent to my deeply held opinions. So, in that regard, maybe Isaiah and I are on the same page. But that verse in Isaiah goes on to remind us that, though our sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Translation: we all get it wrong some of the time, and God understands our impulsiveness and will forgive us. I can disagree, I can argue and I can refuse to change what I believe to be my faith-based stand on an issue. What I cannot do is think that I am morally superior to he or she with whom I disagree. We share the same humanity, the same God. So, as the rhetoric will get only louder, no doubt, in the coming months, we (I) have to take special care to reign in unkind and unjust attitudes towards others. We can learn from one another, but only if we tone down the shouting and converse in civil tones with open hearts and listening ears. Then we can "argue it out" and maybe agree on nothing, except that we are all children of God. And that's an excellent start.

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