Love Can Transform Our Society and the Political Landscape
Going into this election, we have a politics of fear and division. We have politics that encourage an “us vs. them” attitude, that foster the dehumanization of those who believe differently than we do. What is the solution to these feelings of division, to the anger and fear so many are feeling?
At Fetzer, our community believes that love—and moving from an ego-centered way of being to a way of being that is centered in love—is the answer. As individual hearts are transformed by love, we move toward loving others, even those whom we have perceived as “enemies,” and it is this kind of shift that can transform societies.
This belief in the transforming power of love is at the core of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, aptly entitled “Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship.” In it, the Pope tackles the world’s current problems and divisions through the lens, as always, of Christ’s teachings about the centrality of love, which permeate the gospels and are at the heart of the Christian tradition. He sees that the world’s problems stem from a belief in individualism that puts our own personal interests ahead of the greater good, which comes from a lack of love for humanity. As he states in the encyclical, “…love takes first place: love must never be put at risk, and the greatest danger lies in failing to love.” And while encyclicals are papal letters addressed to the Catholic clergy and the laity, Fratelli Tutti (all brothers) captures the remarkable challenge for us all to consider: opening our hearts and our relationships as a way to address the divisions in our society.
As we look at the current divisions in our society, we can see that “failing to love” is at the very heart of the matter. We fail to love when we dehumanize those on the “other side;” when we decide that “getting back to normal” is of greater concern than joining together to help protect ourselves and others from the pandemic. We fail to love when we choose to listen to those—media and politicians among them—who only serve to inflame the rising tensions and create further division. And we fail to love when being right becomes more important than our relationships with other people.
As we’ve gotten closer to the election, the rhetoric, name-calling, and dehumanization has intensified. But a “politics of love,” as the Pope calls it, can replace the politics of fear and division we are currently experiencing. Beyond bipartisan bickering and finger-pointing, a politics of love calls on the best impulses of politicians and the electorate to participate in a system in which the greater good is of the utmost concern. This kind of politics requires that politicians do their work from a place of love instead of a need for power and the need to be “right.” If we could all approach politics this way, how transformative that would be. Can you imagine how different this year’s election would be if we all embraced a politics of love? If we had an expectation that the people we elect into office work to serve the common good from a place of love for humanity?
The core teaching of Jesus was that we love God and love each other, not just our families or our friends, but those who are strangers to us, or even enemies. This is the only kind of love that can truly transform our hearts and minds. As Pope Francis reminds us: “…let us be committed to living and teaching the value of respect for others, a love capable of welcoming differences, and the priority of the dignity of every human being over his or her ideas, opinions, practices and even sins.” This love requires us to lay down our pride and radically love, accept, and listen to those who believe differently than we, to respect them and affirm their dignity as human beings. There is no room for dehumanization, finger-pointing, and partisanship in this way of being.
As we vote and await election results, let us try to make love of the utmost importance, not the latest sound bite, not the latest political gaffe, and not our opinions or those with whom we disagree. Instead, let us focus on loving others and actively working on ways we can transform our society and the political landscape via this love with a sense of “fratelli tutti.”
Kurian Thomas is Fetzer's vice president of spiritual transformation.