Faith Matters: Different Not Divided

Pastor Shawn Hannon
Contributing Writer Pastor Shawn Hannon

‘‘Tis the season of division. Neighbor against neighbor. Father against son. Even some homes divided.

We place flags and signs on our homes and yards to announce our side. We buy hats and shirts (and masks!) to project our place in the argument.

We’ve got our talking points and strive to be as informed as possible in the conversation. We listen to talk radio heads talk for hours on the subject. We read article after article of click bait links on our social media.

We cannot believe there are actually people on the other side. Seriously, what are they thinking?

That’s right! It’s college football season. What did you think I was talking about?

My introduction came to it during my 4 years in the Carolinas. Gamecocks vs. Clemson… Duke vs. UNC vs. NC State. The bitter rivalries were real. In fact, they may have even enriched the experience.

If only the differences in other places in our world had the power to do so. Instead we are watching as our communities are becoming ever more fractured. And why?

A bible reading recently struck me in a new light. It was written by Paul to a divided community in Rome. They couldn’t agree about what to eat or which day to recognize as the sabbath. Their arguments resulted in camps and feuds. They even threatened to split. His advice (although advice is probably the wrong word) to them is a message we could all stand to hear today.

He said whether you believe it right to eat this or that doesn’t matter, so long as you do it in honor of the Lord. He told them they didn’t have to agree with the specifics as long as they could see that one another were trying their best to be faithful. He said the same thing about the day of the week. In each case the people argued that their way was the honorable way to revere the Lord. Paul said, if that’s the case who cares if you disagree about the day. And he ended, “why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister?” (Romans 14).

What I witness in our communities these days is far too much judgement and despising simply because people on the receiving end of that judgement disagree with our beliefs. So the questions then becomes our own: why do we think it’s our job to judge our neighbor? And can we continue to live peaceably with people who think differently than us?

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn Hannon
Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.