Democrats, Republicans, and Methodists

On March 30th, 1981 President Ronald Reagan was shot by a would-be assassin. He was rushed to George Washington University Hospital in D.C. where he was stabilized and prepped for exploratory surgery. As a team of doctors surrounded his bed, he propped himself up on one elbow, pulled off his oxygen mask, and said, “I sure hope you’re all Republicans.” At the foot of the bed stood Dr. Joe Giordano, the hospital’s chief of surgery, and a die-hard liberal. Without missing a beat he answered, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.”

The story has become iconic for me, a classic demonstration of what it means to rise above politics for a greater cause, whether it be responding to a human being in distress, a world besieged by a virus, or a nation divided. In the face of Covid, of racial tension, of deep political rancor, we’re all Republicans . . . and we’re all Democrats. In other words, first and foremost we are all humans, called to join together to address a range of difficulties for the sake of our community, our country, and all of humanity.

Earlier this week Bert Clayton shared a quote with Jon Lowry, Jim Carr, and me that I found both amusing and instructive. The words belong to President Ulysses S. Grant, who quipped that there were three parties in America that he was forced to deal with as president—the Democrats, the Republicans . . . and the Methodists.

Being a Methodist himself, President Grant could make fun of his own religious “party.” But I think he was also saying something else with the statement—that to be Methodist is to defy political striping, tribal allegiance, and a herd mentality in order to bring to public affairs a perspective that is at once judicious and generous, encouraging both critical thought and free expression, yet always in the spirit of civility. Drawing from Scripture, John Wesley said it well in another context: “If your heart is with my heart, give me your hand” (2 Kings 10:15).

What I have so deeply appreciated about the Laurel Heights community in this fraught and arduous season is our willingness, our readiness, our resolve to rise above politics, banding together to seek to respond to the host of challenges that have crowded our year. Surely we differ from one another in our politics, but our hearts together yearn for the same good society, for “liberty and justice for all.” In that spirit, we have again and again taken one another’s hand, and I am grateful.

Grace and peace.

Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”

John Wesley