If soldiers could abandon their trenches and reach out to adversaries, perhaps we can, too.
Christmas Eve 1914. Just eight months into World War I, German soldiers huddled in their trenches, wet and cold from relentless winter rains, separated by less than 100 yards from their equally miserable Allied enemies.
Somehow, their spirits buoyed by gifts and letters from home, a few Germans sang a favorite Christmas carol. The Brits in the other trench applauded, and lifted an English carol into the night. Soon, opposing soldiers began to venture out of the trenches into No Man's Land, there to exchange Christmas wishes, cigarettes and more with their enemies.
This true story is dramatized in "All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914," to be presented again this year by Cantus and Theater Latté Da at Minneapolis' Pantages Theatre Dec. 19-22.
Here in Minnesota, the recent election season felt like a war, with insinuating words and unflattering pictures used as weapons to cast the "other side" in the worst possible light. The post-election period feels almost like a cease-fire, especially over same-sex marriage.
What's next in the marriage debate? I'm sure yes-people and no-people are back in their respective trenches, planning strategy, encouraging their comrades. But isn't there a different way forward than getting right away into another expensive and political win-lose? Why not take a cue from Christmas Eve 1914?
Try this: Minnesotans, however you voted on the marriage amendment, commit yourself to at least one conversation with someone who voted the other way. Listen deeply. Seek to understand what they value about marriage, and what specifically led them to vote the way they did Nov. 6. Speak from your heart as well as your head, and see if you and they can find points of agreement.
As a pastor serving an evenly mixed "red state/blue state" congregation, I have spoken with parishioners and neighbors on both sides. Among marriage amendment supporters, I sensed an earnest caring for individuals, families and society, and a desire to honor God's word as they understood it.
From marriage equality supporters, I heard the same. I attended a Respectful Conversation organized by the Minnesota Council of Churches, and our congregation hosted one, too. At both events, although specific interpretations differed, participants trod on common ground rather than No Man's Land.
What is the way forward on this issue for us as we enter this holiday season? Tragically, the 1914 Christmas truce didn't last. That awful war raged almost four more years. But something holy happened that Christmas Eve, by which mortal enemies took a risk, climbed out of their trenches and experienced one another's humanity, ordinariness, even goodness.
Could we here in Minnesota create together a 2012 Christmas truce that lasts, something more solid than the uneasy cease-fire we have currently?
I believe we can. Relationships first. Peace, goodwill to all.
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Dodd Lamberton is a pastor at Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church, Minneapolis.
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