Over the course of my Navy career, I had the privilege of working with and for some wonderful people. But there were also a few times when I worked with and for people who were – how shall I say this? – difficult to be around. As a Chaplain, for example, I remember coming to a new assignment. When I met my new Commanding Officer he told me, “I am an atheist; and quite frankly, I think Chaplains are a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
He was the exception, not the rule. But he was my boss for a period of time. That meant he was the one who would be evaluating my effectiveness and determining the likelihood of my next promotion.
What I had been taught was to adapt to the style of leadership of my superior officers and to carry out the assignments whether I agreed with them or not. And so I did just that. We didn’t agree on lots of things; but I also knew I had a job to do. I reported to work on time and did my job. I reported to him what I was doing and carried out the orders he gave. I adapted to his style of leadership and did what I was asked to do. (By the way, when he left, he acknowledged that I had made a difference in the lives of his troops, and because of that, my work was appreciated – and in fact, I was promoted the next year.)
There are people who question the legitimacy of our current President. There were people who questioned the legitimacy of our last President, too, including the current President. There were people who questioned the results of the most recent election, just as people questioned the results when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George Bush in 2000.
But as a citizen of this land, I have been blessed by the amazingly and historically peaceful transition of leadership from one administration to another, something we’ve been doing in this country for a long time. I have also learned that my role as a citizen does not change simply because I don’t agree with or might question who is in the Oval Office. Nor does it change if the Congress impedes the work of the President or simply gives a rubber stamp to every proposal coming from the White House.
My role, as a citizen, is to make my opinions known; to work for what I believe is best for our country.
My role, as a Christian, is to pray for those who lead our country.
My role as a pastor includes the task of reminding people of the values that are at the core of our beliefs, the values of justice, and compassion, and cooperation, and equal rights based on the belief that all of us are created in the image of God (even those who disagree with us).
As we head into the first 100 days of a new administration, you can expect to see me acting as a citizen and praying as a Christian. Don’t be surprised if, as your pastor, I remind you of our values and invite you to act on them as well.