In an address to the 68th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. attended by both President Trump and House Speaker Pelosi, author Arthur Brooks encouraged biblical love amid a nationwide “crisis of contempt and polarization,” reminding attendees that Jesus ordered His followers to love, and not just tolerate, their enemies. Brooks, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, added “I’m here to talk to you about the biggest crisis facing many nations today: the crisis of contempt and polarization that’s tearing our societies apart.” “This provides the greatest opportunity we have ever had as Christians to lift our nations up and bring our people together,” he said.
When it comes to an “old” problem like contempt and polarization, it’s important to “think differently” to achieve a new solution, he said. Brooks turned to the words of Jesus, from Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Such words are as “subversive and counterintuitive” today as they were 2,000 years ago, Brooks said. To apply these words to today’s society, “we need to make the problem personal,” he said. The speaker revealed that his own parents, devout Christians, are politicly liberal, starkly contrasting his own politically conservative beliefs.
“I want it to be personal today,” Brooks said. “How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically? Are you comfortable hearing someone insult that person that you love?” Moral courage, he said, isn’t standing up to those with whom you disagree. Rather, it’s “standing up to those with whom you agree on behalf of those with whom you disagree.” He added, “Contempt is ripping our country apart. Don’t believe it? Turn on prime time TV, it’s tearing our society apart.” “How do we break the habit of contempt? Some people say we need more civility and tolerance. I say, nonsense. Because civility and tolerance are a low standard,” he said.
“Jesus said ‘love your enemies.’ Answer hatred with love.” Brooks implored his audience to firstly, “ask God to give you the strength to go against your human nature and act on Jesus’ teaching. Ask God to take political contempt from your heart.” Second, Brooks encouraged attendees to “make a commitment to somebody else to reject contempt.” “By all means disagree, that’s what makes America great, the competition of ideas,” he said. “But do it without contempt and ask somebody to hold you accountable.” Finally, he advised his audience to “go out looking for contempt. It’s your opportunity for moral perfection.” Brooks explained.
“Why? Because when people treat you with hatred and you answer with love, you change the country. It’s like being a missionary. This is your opportunity to show people what leadership is all about. Run toward the darkness, bring your light.” “When you leave this National Prayer Breakfast today, you’ll be back in a world with a lot of contempt. See it as your opportunity,” he added. Brooks advised listeners to imagine a sign above the door reading. “You are Now Entering Mission Territory.” “If you see the world, if we see the world outside the room as mission territory, we might just mark this day as the point at which our national healing begins,” he concluded.
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