Photo Credit: Deb Mills, Mission BBQ
Right through college, I wondered, with hope, at the question:
“Why can’t we all just get along?”
With enough will, effort, and care, we should all be able to find some common ground…where we can agree more than we disagree.
That was decades ago, and the world has changed so much. We still remember how it once was (we all do, no matter our generation), and we examine our world today with those lenses…and are mortified.
I am still hopeful…but not in the somewhat childish idea that it is possible to agree if we care enough. However, I do believe we can understand each other, if we care enough. And be gracious.
It is not necessary, and no way helpful, to blame, and boil over in anger at what we consider the stupidity or short sidedness of “the other side”…whatever that is. It just alienates and isolates and dims the possibility of working toward real solutions to problems.
I don’t want to be angry anymore. I want to treat people with grace, and respect, and genuine interest. Including people who don’t agree with me…and I’m not alone.
America is divided along so many lines. Those lines are blurred by cultural contradictions. What does that mean? When we say we believe one thing but our actions communicate something very different. Or vice versa.
- We celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America, expressing gratitude for all we have, and then make a mad rush to the stores hours later to buy more.
- Our elected officials say they care about the poor and yet the economically disadvantaged continue to be so, but our politicians get richer and richer.
- We talk about health care for all, but in its current state it’s too costly for those who can already afford to pay for some measure of insurance. We do nothing about health care reform but want health care for all.
- Americans have a high regard for life, and yet the most vulnerable – those who can’t defend themselves – the unborn – are, at times, considered disposable.
- We see the painful racial divides in our country, and yet the walls continue to go up (built by the major political parties in their own unique ways, along with educators and celebrity influencers).
- We feel a sense of ownership/stewardship over the earth, but again, we mainly just point fingers in blame, rather than coming to a policy table to wrestle through the problems and solutions.
- We are proud of being a nation of immigrants, and yet for decades our government has been unable to exact reform in our sluggish immigration system – except either to temporarily protect or bar illegal immigrants or to wall off our borders. Our immigrant numbers dwindle and we blame…rather than work across our differences.
[Even in writing these examples, I find myself blaming. Forgive me. As an evangelical and political conservative, I have my own hopes for solving the contradictions listed above…but it would be thrilling to have the opportunity to observe or participate in problem-solving that “reaches across the aisle.”].
As another example, it’s a grievous thing when we Christians rabidly go after each other – on social media mostly – over our choices of political platforms or candidates. If we follow the teachings and life of Christ, we are always to forgive, no matter what, and to love even our enemies. How would our social media posts look during an election year if we, just us Christians, practiced our faith in this way?
How would our conversations go if we would keep listening and asking questions across our cultural contradictions? And determined not to judge each other in those contradictions?
What got me thinking about this is the increase of fairly surly posts popping up as the Presidential primaries are upon us…We agree on so many things…but some of the “loudest” things currently being broadcasted divide us and get personal. Righteous indignation doesn’t stay righteous when it moves from issues to individuals.
Then Trevin Wax‘s blog got my attention – The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment . He engaged with the British journalist Douglas Murray on his book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity . Two brilliant men who agree and disagree and yet give us much to consider in this contentious culture of ours. Take time to read that post…I learned so much.
Another place that helps me, as a passionate but somewhat passive observer, is Twitter. I follow some who are very much like me, somewhat like me, and nothing at all like me. They teach exquisite lessons on our post-Christian culture…where we do not have to interact in a post-Christ way. We can still be civil, caring and clear.
Twitter is the place where some Christians continuously declare themselves victims of attacks from the “other tribe”, while they openly mock and rejoice in the trials of a member of that other “tribe”.
Many of us see our own wounds, but we refuse to see our own bloodied hands.
— Samuel Sey (@SlowToWrite) February 24, 2020
This is my latest article:
"I’ve been called “Black on the outside, White on the inside” many times.
And that’s because too many Black people agree with White racists that a Black person’s skin colour shapes who they are."https://t.co/Mqu47gDVa5
— Samuel Sey (@SlowToWrite) February 21, 2020
“While the world is blundering on in its suicidal course of greed and hate, it is time for us who love the Lord to press forward the message of the Prince of Peace with every faculty that we can command” (Baker James Cauthen, FMB missionary to China, 1940 (FMB president 1954-‘79)
— Paul Chitwood (@DrPaulChitwood) February 23, 2020
"It's all about supporting the most innocent, vulnerable, poor, downtrodden, voiceless, helpless, and defenseless. So I see being pro-life as just about the most liberal thing there is." Read our interview with six #prolife Democrats: https://t.co/uXebSUEkFb
— Secular Pro-Life (@secularprolife) February 22, 2020
This is its own form of cross-cultural communication – learning how to winsomely engage people given all our cultural contradictions. We find ourselves in an intellectual and spiritual quagmire, but we can learn to recognize distinctions and learn how to keep talking and to stay engaged with each other.
[Don’t miss these writers below – whether you agree with all they say…their clarity is refreshing. Let’s learn from them.]