In my youth, I cheered for the Minnesota Vikings and the defensive line known as “The Purple People Eaters.” This article is NOT about that. Instead, I’m going to broach the issue of politics in this era of division between red and blue. As we probably all learned with our first box of watercolors, blue and red, when combined, make purple. It seems to me that the church in our age, needs to think about being purple instead of red or blue.
Purple has been rumbling around in my brain, and my heart, after a recent discussion with a brother in Christ who wondered if our congregation was really welcoming to people who voted like he did. His perception was that, mostly based on my perceived political views, we were leaning hard toward one of the colors that mark the divide between us. In what ended up being a very fruitful exchange (a rare and precious thing in our nation), we got by perceptions and assumptions to stay connected as brothers.
That is when it hit me that I needed to repent of anything and everything I do, or have done, to manifest the red-blue divide our politicians and many fellow citizens so strenuously seek to maintain. It dawned on me that one of the ways we need to share God’s love in the world is to model a unitive, instead of binary, reconciling instead of divisive way of advocating for the reign of God in the civil arena. We need to be a purple people; a people who are held together by our faith principally, and always accept that while there will always be disagreement between us about political parties and policies, it shall never divide the body of Christ.
What does this look like? I’m frankly not sure. Perhaps, in a fashion similar to the public statement we recently made to welcome all people, we could fashion some statement for our own community that is dedicated to mutual respect; that acknowledges there are biblical imperatives about feeding the hungry, helping the poor, welcoming the stranger and recognizes that there are different visions of how those matters are addressed. Perhaps it could lay out the things that are about faith – even if they sound political, and are not, and name the things that sound religious but aren’t. Maybe we could use it to remind each other that our commitment to God in Christ take precedence over allegiance to party, policy, person, or even nation.
As we approach the season of Lent (the color for Lent is purple) I want to ask you to pray about how we end our participation in division and commit ourselves to live not in a red or blue state, but in a purple nation, bound together in a commitment to love one another. If you find yourself saying “YES” to this “purple vision,” let me know. Maybe we can work on it together. It sounds simple. It is. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Pax Christi – Pastor Tim Olson