I give equal credit to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for their luncheon meeting on November 29th. They were a winner and a loser on November 6th, but both of them as they met for lunch, deserve equal credit. Today's 24 hour news cycle has our radio and tv pundits of all political persuasions, attempting to provide the "background", the reasons and the rationale for everything that takes place. I am reminded of that old story of the 2 Psychiatrists attending a meeting of those of their profession. As they passed each other on the street one morning as they were going to their respective workshops, one of them said "good morning" to the other and received a "good morning" response from his colleague. After they passed each other, they both said to themselves silently, "I wonder what did he mean by that?" Ours is a time of cynicism, suspicion, and inability to believe in the good, rather than the worst. There is that illustration in the Bible of the response to an introduction of Jesus of Nazareth. The response: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
Let us forget President Obama and Governor Romney and think about ourselves and the polarization and gridlock of these moments. Do you remember reading about the long feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys? The story of the long feud between these two families on the West Virginia and Kentucky border has become a part of American folklore. It has been said that this feud is an illustration of the "perils of family honor, justice and vengeance." Descendants of these families met a few years ago in Pikeville, Kentucky to celebrate an official truce between the families.
What about us and the long and short term feuds that are ours, in our families, our neighborhoods, churches, nation and world? I remember hearing as a child, this rhyme that is attributed to a disagreement betweeen a student and a teacher at Christ Church, Oxford in England. It became a part of the Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme literature in 1926: "I do not like thee, Dr. Fell, The reason why - I cannot tell; but this I know and know full well, I do not like thee, Dr. Fell."
How do we explain the "disilikes" that are ours of other people, and the "dislikes" that some people have of us? Does not full disclosure compel us to admit that some "dislikes" have been of such long duration, that we and others must say of them, "The reason why - I cannot tell; but this I know and know full well, I do not like _____"
What has motivated me on November 30, 2012 to write this Epistle shaped by the meeting of President Obama and Governor Romney? 55 years and 1 day ago, my wife Grace and I drove from North Carolina to Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. (It is now a Resort and Casino). We were married 55 years ago, today and after spending one night in North Carolina, we drove to the place I had chosen for our honeymoon. At the time I was a 3rd year student at Boston University School of Theology and wanted to make an "impression" on my bride by using my limited resources to make a reservation for us at the Lodge. When we arrived, Grace stayed in the car and I went in to claim my reservation. The clerk at the desk fumbled a bit and finally found my reservation. He held it in his hands, they were shaking a bit, and he said; "You can't stay here, your presence would upset our guests". To "make a long story short" (smile), after a bit of debate and then disappointment, I realized that Mt. Airy Honeymoon Lodge at that time (1957), did not provide accomodations for couples who were Black.
How does this story "fit" in what I have written about differences, debates, divisions, losers and winners, and reconciliation? Why do we allow our differences, our debates and disagreements, our misunderstandings,our disappointments and our angers to permanently keep us apart, when 'We Are Family', as the song goes? Obviously, my memories of our Mt. Airy Lodge experience have not been erased. But there are also some "dislikes" you and I have of others for reasons that we no longer remember. If President Obama and Governor Romney could meet for what some say was only a "Photo Op", why cannot we "meet" first prayerfully, and then possibly actually, those with whom we disagree and those who disagree with us?
I am going to send this to what is now the Mount Airy Resort and Casino as an act of reconciliation. You may want to send it to some person(s) or institution(s) that represent difference, difficulty, and division in your life. The press will pay no attention to your reconciliation. But press coverage ought never be the reason for why we reconcile.