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“Judge not lest we be judge” is good religion. It keeps us humble. Surprisingly, it is also good for business. It means more customers, longer lines for the rides, more meals eaten in restaurants and more money in the cash register.
We can’t revive an economy with stores that want to turn away customers, counselors who do not want to see clients, bakers who don’t want to sell cakes, florists who don’t want to deliver flowers, industries that don’t want new markets, employers who don’t want to hire the most qualified applicants.
Our nation just went through a very divisive election campaign; but one thing we learned close to home from the fires in Sevier County is that when times get tough, we can set aside differences and work together as one people. Republican or Democrat, immigrant or native, Christian, Muslim or Jew — we are all neighbors who can turn toward each other in a time of need, support each other through trauma and work together to keep our communities safe and secure.
Economists across the liberal to conservative spectrum tell us that when a community is struck by disaster, charity is good but customers are better. Charity will see you through the crisis of the moment. Good customers can sustain you for a lifetime.
To revive our region’s economy from a devastating setback, we need customers from red states and blue states, big cities and rural areas, people of every kind from far and wide. The Smokies are an ideal location for weddings, honeymoons and family reunions. Let’s offer hospitality to everyone.
My church history professor in seminary used to say, “In America, religious freedom means we can condemn each other to hell on Sunday and go back to work together on Monday.” Religious or political differences need not lead to acrimony or be an impediment to economic growth and greater prosperity for all.
I am a minister. Love is my religion and my business. I believe the best way to love God who we have not seen is by loving others who we can see. Once when I was on vacation on the coast of Maine, I stayed at a retreat center where the cafeteria listed every ingredient of every item on the menu, including the most important ingredient of all: “Love.” Although I was far away from here, I felt right at home. Let’s send a similar message to everyone who visits our state. In Tennessee, we are not only too busy to hate — we are ready to love.
Chris Buice is pastor of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.