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Shared faith comes before politics

Evan Dolive and Tom Teater will share a birthday Tuesday while canceling out each other's vote for the president of the United States.

Dolive, 26, is a Republican voting for Sen. John McCain. Teater, 44, a Democrat, will cast his ballot for Sen. Barack Obama.

But far more important than their politics is their Christian belief that does not allow disagreements to destroy their friendship.

In today's culture, where we are discouraged from accepting people with dissenting views, Dolive and Teater are strong friends who will embrace what they have in common, and perhaps their differences, Tuesday night, as they celebrate their birthdays and a new president.

And they want others to do the same. They've even had T-shirts printed that will use their friendship as an example for the rest of us.

"I said, 'Tom, let's make a statement about how politics don't have to be so divisive,'" Dolive said. "He thought it would be a great idea.

"We've talked about why we believe certain things. But it was always in the mode of respect."

"I am amazed at the number of people who can't speak to one another," Teater said. "John McCain and Barack Obama are not my God."

Dolive is a third-year student at Lexington Theological Seminary, where Teater is the organist and pianist. The two men started at the same time and soon became friends.

As they discussed what each of them believed in, they discovered they were on different sides politically, and they accepted that.

There was far more value in what they had in common.

It was a year before they discovered they shared Nov. 4 as their birthday. They also share a solid footing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which welcomes "all to the Lord's table as God has welcomed us."

"Their idea was to unify under one banner, and I think accepting a different view of the world, of God and of Christ is definitely a Disciple tenet," Dolive said. "This is a very Disciple thing for us to do."

Teater agreed, saying, "In the Disciple church, the Communion table is central. All divisions break down. When we come around the table, the focus is on Jesus Christ, who is the center of our faith. I don't know of any other way to think."

By making their faith paramount, politics is insignificant and definitely not worth hindering a friendship.

"It's about valuing another's opinion," Teater said. "Your opinion is just your opinion. That's what works for little Tom Teater. What works for Evan, I have to respect that."

If we focus on the real issues and show respect to one another, "life could be a lot simpler," Teater said. "I think it holds this nation back."

The divisions and animosity are as prevalent in the seminary as in the rest of the world, both men agreed, but that's because human beings are involved.

Dolive and Teater hope to be two human beings who will help change that and show the rest of us how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Respecting and encouraging different opinions opens this country to innovative thought and the freedom to be individuals. None of us is always right, and choking off dissent is not what this country is supposed to be about.

"You may not like the guy, but you respect the office," Dolive said. On Tuesday night, the two men will "celebrate this time in history and we will celebrate another year of life."

"And we will still be friends tomorrow," Teater said, no matter how the election turns out. "We will both win."