While I am not Catholic, I watched with interest as many did on Wednesday as white smoke appeared in Vatican City. Watching a CNN live stream online, I listened with interest to speculation about the new Pope’s identity, but grew increasingly disgusted as the coverage changed from informative conjecture to openly hostile condemnation of the Catholic Church in general.
The central theme, stripped of all its benign wording and sophistry, was that the only way for the Church to remain relevant in today’s world is to adopt “modern,” “progressive” sentiments on a range of issues, supplanting such petty ideas as, well, the teachings of Christ.
Such condemnation by modern secularists is nothing new to Christians, but today it struck a nerve, as I had been engaging in good-natured banter with a Catholic friend and colleague since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. While once upon a time wars were fought over matters of doctrine between and among various groups of Christians, for the most part such conflicts are now left to the theologians.
When lay people have discussions of our differences today, they are generally friendly and done with the understanding that we are all ultimately brothers and sisters.
Despite the many things that a Protestant and Catholic may disagree on, in the grand scheme of things, we are more united in our shared beliefs than divided by our differences. This was brought into stark focus watching the CNN coverage, as there is nothing that so clearly defines one’s allies as being confronted by one’s enemies. It was with this in mind that I expressed solidarity with my Catholic friend and wished Pope Francis well.
In any large group of people, while they may share a common belief, there is always going to be conflict as to what to do about that belief. They may have a common goal, but disagree about how to achieve that goal. They may all be devoted to certain fundamental principles, but have radically different ideas about how to actualize those principles.
This brings us to the ongoing war of words and intramural squabbling in the Republican Party, whether locally, across the state, or around the country. While we bicker and fight to either maintain or obtain “power” within the party structure, our common foes laugh as real battles are being conceded, unfought.
I have friends on both sides of the party divide, as well as others, like myself, that feel stuck in the middle, because frankly, there is fault to be found on both sides. In the spirit of the Christian side of my imperfect analogy, what we all need to do is to display some of the virtues to which all of us aspire.
Moving forward, we must all have the humility to accept that none of us is perfect, and thus no one has a monopoly on the right ideas or courses of action. We must be charitable to those we don’t know, and give them the benefit of the doubt, whether they are established party members or newcomers.
Trust must be earned, but it can only be earned by first giving someone a chance. Most of all, we must constantly remember Reagan’s admonition that if we agree 80 percent of the time, we are friends and allies, not 20 percent enemies.
There is a real enemy out there, and in the long run the only way for us to achieve victory and see our shared vision realized is to do so together.
Matthew Watson is an attorney who has been involved in politics most of his life. He has been active in the local GOP since moving to Cobb County in 2010.