A Note On Our Divided Hearts

A Note on Our Divided Hearts,
Or This Sunday’s Afternoon Sermon
I knew I didn’t belong in church anymore when I realized that I had heard this all before and it wasn’t making any sense this time ’round either. Sometimes we have to know when enough is enough. So, just how much must we engage those with whom we vehemently disagree? What responsibilities do we have to family, to community, and to ourselves as individuals? 
One way to think about these questions is to remind ourselves of just how mortal and vulnerable we are, of the importance of time and our priorities, born as they are of both necessity and choice. With whom do we want to share our time in life and why? After all, all we have is time and the company we keep. 
Don’t mistake our current malaise and our painful national divisions for only failure. Don’t mistake the conflict in your own family and among your friends for failure. Gather up your dignity to choose your company. We discover in politics, in religion, and in other areas of human experience what we really think and feel, what values we share and where we differ in understanding and action. Some differences are irreconcilable because there is no compromise or middle ground, we just disagree. And then? Is it always simply moral to agree to disagree? We know better than that. We know that we are each other’s keepers because the alternative — it’s only you, your choice— never existed. Sometimes what we believe another believes or does is immoral, and that can include people we love. We must choose, act, stand for something. Sometimes our differences mean we don’t share enough to want to spend precious time simply because we’re blood relatives or because we come to discover that our differences make all the difference we need to decide our time.
I might affirm another’s life by simply leaving that person to live as they choose. But how we treat each other is more than a private matter— our personal values and individual actions always have public implications and consequences. And there is nothing like stress, for better and worse, like the crisis before America, to reveal character and to test virtue. So here’s my last two cents because I have the feeling this sermon is as soporific and anodyne as the one I complained about at the outset:
Choose your company wisely and don’t think that because you choose _not_ to keep another’s company you are somehow less inclusive or curious. Sometimes the choices you make to protect your time and honor your character require as much. You are as much the company you choose _not_ to keep because that too helps you fathom your humanity and helps you create a life of value. Without creating your own boundaries you won’t be able to fathom the boundaries that history, society, culture, and nation have placed on you. As Donne put it, in surely an antiquated language: no man is an island. Implicate yourself with people whose time is worth yours. But never forget how much privilege it requires to make those choices. And if you can, confer some of that privilege on others. Compassion is how you choose to make a difference _for the better_ in someone’s life, including your own.

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