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Bishop Michael Curry Says Loving Your Neighbor is the American Way

Allow me to begin by saying we do not come in hatred. We do not come in bigotry. We do not come to put anybody down. We come to lift everybody up. We come in love. We come in love because we follow Jesus. And Jesus taught us love. Love the Lord your God. And love your neighbor.

Love your liberal neighbor. Love your conservative neighbor. Love your Democratic neighbor. Love your Republican neighbor. Love your Independent neighbor. Love your neighbor who you don’t like. Love the neighbor you disagree with.

Love your Christian neighbor. Love your Muslim neighbor. Love your Jewish neighbor. Love your Palestinian neighbor. Love your Israeli neighbor. Love your refugee neighbor. Love your immigrant neighbor. Love the prison guard neighbor. Love your neighbor. 

We come in love. I would submit that the teaching of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor is at the core and the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And we must be people who reclaim Christianity from its popular modality, from the way it is often perceived and presented, to a way of Christianity that looks something like Jesus. And Jesus said, Love God and love your neighbor, so we come in love.

That is the core of our faith. That is the heart of it. And we come, because we are Christian and the way of love calls for us to be humanitarian. It calls for us to care for those who have no one to care for them. We also come because we don’t believe that a great nation like this one separates children from their families. We come because we believe President Abraham Lincoln, who said this nation was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal. We believe that we must call this nation, America, back to its very soul.

We are here because we love this nation. Because if you really love somebody, you don’t leave them the way they are. You help them to become their best selves. We are here to save the soul of America. Now let me unpack it briefly this way. If you want a symbol for America, fly into New York City sometime. If you fly over the harbor, and I do it all the time, usually because I’m coming from Raleigh, North Carolina . . . I have to look out the left side of the airplane, and when I do as the plane is making its approach into LaGuardia airport, I see a large green statue. It is a statue of a woman and she has a torch in her hand, lifted up, and a book in her hand, and on that book are inscribed the words “July 4th 1776.”

We must save the soul of America by calling America back to its core, to its core values, which it hasn’t always lived up to, but the values are there nonetheless. And on July 4, 1776, if I remember my history correctly, on that day was issued a Declaration of Independence. We’re friends with Great Britain now, but back then we had some issues. On that day, in the Declaration of Independence, our founders wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men”—all people, all people—“are created equal.”

Not just American people, no, but all people, wherever they come from. People from Honduras, people from Mexico, people from Costa Rica, people from Venezuela, people from Asia, people from Africa, people from Europe, all people are created equal. All. 

Now I think that’s America. And then the text goes on in the Declaration of Independence, that all people are created equal: “they are endowed by their Creator”—not by Congress, not by a parliament, not by a potentate, not by a president, endowed by the Creator. They are endowed “with

certain unalienable Rights,” rights that cannot be abridged or cannot be amended because they derive from God. What are those rights? To life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

That is the American way.

We come in love. We come because we believe in loving your neighbor. And we come because we love America, and we want America to be true to her highest self.

Let me go on. On that same Statue of Liberty there is a poem that was composed by Emma Lazarus. Hear me now: these are the words on the Statue of Liberty. You can’t get more American than that. So, America, hear me well. On the Statue of Liberty these are the words:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name–

Hear me, America:
Her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

And this is what she says:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp before the golden door!”

America. America means “welcome.” Come, God’s children. America means “welcome.” We come because we are people of love. We love those who seek refuge from war and violence and hardship. We come because we want America to truly be great.

Alexis de Tocqueville came and spent time in the United States in the nineteenth century. He traveled the land and met and listened to the peoples. He listened to the indigenous people of the land. The other people who weren’t indigenous, or natives, the rest who had immigrated to the land—help me, somebody—all the folk he got to meet. He met slaves and free slaves, met European Americans who had come here, fleeing famine, fleeing persecution. He met the peoples of America, and de Tocqueville wrote, and I quote, “America is great because America is good.”

Let us make America great again, by making America good, by making America kind, by making America just, by making America loving. Let us make America great again.

God love you. God bless you. And don’t you quit, and don’t you get weary. God bless you all!

Reprinted from The Power of Love by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018, Bishop Michael Curry.

This book excerpt was featured in the Nov. 4th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.