george_hancockstefanA number of weeks ago, during the time that the Supreme Court listened to arguments for or against DOMA and same-sex marriage, Asbury Park had two articles in the Commentary section. One was written by Eugene Robinson, Will court fight the tide? Justices consider two cases related to marriage equality and another written by Patrick Buchanan GOP dying as a nation changes – immigration, globalism, cultural shifts threaten party. I am aware that the newspaper is trying to present opposing views, but the two of them were so far from one another, that there was no shred of commonality among them.  My daughters are familiar with one of my expressions: they are so far from the truth that you need another set of binoculars!

In one of the post-marital sessions I had many years ago (in fact both people that came to see me have gone to be with the Lord), I felt that the two married people were so far from one another, that I asked them the question: When did you start having these feelings of antagonism (neutral word) for one another?  He could not remember, but she told me that they started about 20 years ago and they have been simmering ever since. I was also surprised to see how they used Bible verses to justify their leaving one another.  I heard interpretations of the Scriptures that I had never heard before. After a number of sessions they told me that they were leaving one another and they did so for about 3 years. However, when one of them became sick the other came to take care of the ill spouse until the spouse died.

In the biblical story of Abraham and Lot there is a quarrel among the shepherds of Lot and Abraham. Abraham is trying to keep Lot nearby, but having not been successful in his negotiation, he says to his nephew: Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company.  If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9) The choice that Lot made was a devastating one – he chose to dwell in Sodom and Gomorrah, two evil cities. Abraham rescued his nephew twice – one because the city of Sodom was captured by other kings and another time by interceding on his behalf with God to deliver him before he destroyed the two cities.

In the New Testament we have the story of Paul separating from his good friend and mentor Barnabas. This split happens because they had such varied opinions about Mark who previously has traveled with them, but deserted the mission. When they started the mission again, Paul did not want to travel with Mark again, while Barnabas who was always looking for reforming fallen people wanted to take him with them.  The disagreement over Mark was so great that the team of Paul and Barnabas split.  It was much later that Paul saw that Barnabas was right when he wrote to “Bring me Mark, for he is useful.” There had been a change in Mark and reconciliation between Paul and Barnabas.

In this country we have so many issues that have pulled us so far from one another.  Immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage, economics have become shouting matches and accusations for the other group. (This week Margaret Thatcher died and one person wrote that she was loved and loathsome at the same time!) I have talked with people who are so far on the right that they are not even willing to say that President Obama seems to be a great husband and great father!  They are afraid that if they acknowledge it,  they would have committed the unpardonable sin.  I have heard people in the same-sex marriage partnerships who declared that if people do not agree with their position they are homophobes and hate-mongers.  When asked how this is possible, the answer was that if one does not agree in principle with their position, one does not need evidence.  Absence of agreement makes one a hate-monger.


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As we moving into the 21st century what we need to find are ways to be reconciled with one another. Will there be a possibility that those who are absolutist when it comes to abortion will see that those who are not able to be absolutist in the face of incest and a rape have not betrayed the anti-abortion platform? That even with those who favor abortion, we should have a dialogue and appreciate the fact that they have high views on child care and care for the seniors of this country. We should work diligently so that we will not need to buy binoculars to see how far we have gone from one another.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...