Religion Beyond Partisanship: A Call for Unity and Inclusivity in Places of Worship

Rev. Derrick Elliott, Pastor, Sun Lakes United Church of Christ

In an era where the lines of political division run deep, there’s a growing call for religion to remain a sanctuary of unity and inclusivity, transcending partisan divides. Religious institutions, revered for centuries as pillars of moral guidance and communal solace, are now at a crossroads. The question that looms large is, should these sacred spaces become arenas of political discourse or remain sanctuaries that rise above the fray of partisan politics? As we continue to navigate through the Christmastide season, a time of reflection and celebration following the intensity of the holiday season, this question becomes even more poignant. This period, steeped in the spirit of peace and goodwill, reminds us of the core values that our faith traditions uphold. It is a time that calls for a recommitment to the ideals of unity and understanding, emphasizing the need for our religious spaces to continue to be havens of inclusivity and harmony, especially in times of societal division.

My faith calls me to look beyond the transient waves of political discourse and anchor myself in the eternal times of polarization; my religious gatherings can be a balm, a unifying force that heals and brings together people from all walks of life, irrespective of their worldly views. In this context, the biblical teaching from Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” resonates profoundly with my beliefs. This simple yet profound commandment bridges the healing power of our sacred gatherings and the inclusive embrace of our community. It underscores the importance of treating each other with empathy and kindness, especially during division. This scripture aligns with and enriches our commitment to welcoming and valuing everyone, recognizing that everyone has a unique story and a shared desire for connection and understanding.

My faith teaches me to embrace every individual with open arms, celebrating the diversity of thoughts and beliefs. It reminds me that every soul walking through our doors seeks solace, understanding, or a sense of belonging. As a shepherd of my flock, I am called to provide a space where all can feel welcomed and loved, transcending the boundaries of earthly divisions. This is not a call to silence the critical conversations about justice, morality, and righteousness that my faith often inspires. Instead, it invites me to engage in these conversations with a spirit of love and openness, recognizing each person I encounter’s inherent worth and dignity.

As we gather in worship and fellowship, I am determined to exemplify how unity can be achieved even amidst diversity. I aim to show the world that our faith is a bridge, not a barrier—a force that unites us in our shared humanity, even as we celebrate our unique journeys. I am reminded of Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus in which he encourages believers to live a life worthy of their calling to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2). This is my guiding principle as I foster an environment where all are welcome and valued and can find peace.